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China arrests underground bishop in move to block Vatican plan

March 31, 2009

Chinese police have re-arrested Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, the most prominent leader of the Chinese "underground Church." The arrest came just as a special Vatican commission met in Rome to consider the situation facing the Church in China.

Bishop Jia spent 15 years in prison (from 1963 to 1978), and has been arrested and released at least 13 times in the past 5 years, with authorities persistently pressing him to join the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association. He has been living under house arrest since his latest incarceration last year.

AsiaNews reports that the reason for the bishop's latest arrest is authorities' determination that Bishop Jia should not meet with Bishop Jang Taoran, who heads the government-recognized "official" Catholic Church in the Hebei province. Bishop Jang recently pledged his loyalty to the Holy See, and agreed to work as an auxiliary to Bishop Jia. The two prelates were planning to cooperate as part of the plan suggested by Pope Benedict for the reconciliation of the "underground" and "official" branches of the Church in China. Beijing officials evidently fear that reconciliation.


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