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Wenzhou bishop has another trip

HONG KONG (UCAN): Fresh from his gardening leave in the remote north of China, the harassed bishop of Wenzhou, Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, has been taken on another trip courtesy of the government to keep him away from sensitive Church activities and functions.

As the coadjutor of the diocese, Bishop Shao automatically succeeded the late Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang when he died on September 7, but as the bishop in Wenzhou, it should have been his responsibility to preside at the funeral of both his predecessor and the late Bishop Anthony Xu Jiwei, from neighbouring Taizhou, who died on September 25, leaving no immediate successor.

Taizhou is a small diocese with few resources or personnel of its own and has had to rely on support from other dioceses since Bishop Xu arrived there in the 1990s.

However, Bishop Shao is not recognised by the government and his first gardening leave prevented him from burying his predecessor in Wenzhou and the second one kept him away from that of Bishop Xu, both of whom did have government recognition.

The situation underscores ongoing tension between the Vatican and Beijing, even as the two continue talks that were resumed in 2014 after a hiatus of several years to try and harmonise the process of appointing bishops.

Bishop Shao lies at the centre of this issue, as he is recognised by the Vatican but not the government or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Shao had returned to Wenzhou after the funeral of his predecessor, but it was reported that he has now been taken back to Qinghai in northwest China.

When he initially returned from the area, he underwent a medical checkup for stomach problems in neighbouring Nanjing. 

“He was supposed to return to the diocese today after the checkup but has now been taken away to Qinghai again. The diocesan chancellor, Father Paul Jiang Sunian, was also taken to Qinghai a few days ago,” a September 26 report says.

It is not certain if Bishop Shao’s second gardening leave is related to the death of Bishop Xu or the Holy See’s September 21 confirmation that he is now the bishop of Wenzhou.

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