A bishop of the underground Catholic Church in China was arrested in his hospital bed last month, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 72, was in a hospital recovering from surgery, and according to the group, he was detained to prevent him from contacting a Vatican delegation in Beijing to discuss relations between the Vatican and China and freedom for the Catholic Church there.
The Communist Chinese government requires Christians to worship only in state-controlled associations, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which eschews any connections to the Vatican or the Pope. Many Catholics worship in illegal, underground churches, following only bishops appointed by the Pope, although the divisions are not hard and fast. Many priests and laypeople, and even bishops, are members of the patriotic association in public, and of the underground Church, in secret.
Bishop Jia was profiled in Catholic World Report in February 2003, and he is quite famous in his country. Despite persecution and numerous arrests since 1980, he has founded a seminary, convent, and an orphanage at the parish where he lives. He is watched closely by police.
The bishop’s activities have prompted police to arrest him, again and again. In fact Bishop Jia confesses that he does not remember how many times he has been arrested. He is always prepared; he keeps his few necessary possessions packed in a small bag, so that he can grab the bag and be ready to live anywhere when he is taken into custody.
Bishop Jia has learned, from his frequent arrests, that he may be taken into custody at any time. Sometimes he is taken away on national holidays, because police decide that too many people are coming to visit him. Sometimes he is taken on the eve of important political events, such as a meeting of the People’s Congress, because it is a sensitive period and government officials want to ensure peace and quiet. Sometimes he is taken because Catholics are deemed “too active” in the region.
Read the rest of the article for a personal recollection of an encounter by a Chinese Catholic of the underground Church upon meeting the bishop in the summer of 2001. Would that we had more bishops like that in the US. Lord, give your bishops in America great courage like that of Bishop Jia and his brother-predecessor Cardinal Kung.
bk_keywords:China Catholic, religious freedom.