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Vatican expresses grave concern over missing bishop

VATICAN (SE): “The Holy See is following with grave concern the personal situation of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, forcibly removed from his episcopal see some time ago,” Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement on June 26, CNS reported.
Bishop Shao has been detained since Holy Week and has been repeatedly moved in an apparent attempt to prevent him from assuming leadership of the diocese; he is recognised by the Vatican but not by the Chinese authorities (Sunday Examiner, April 23).
He should have taken over leadership of the diocese upon the death of his predecessor, Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang on 7 September 2016.
“The diocesan Catholic community and his relatives have no news or reasons for his removal, nor do they know where he is being held,” Burke said, adding that the treatment of the bishop, along with other, similar occurrences, does not foster the kind of understanding that the Vatican wants to reach with the Chinese government.
AsiaNews reported that Michael Clauss, Germany’s ambassador to China, posted a letter on the embassy’s website on June 20 calling for Bishop Shao’s release.
In the letter, Clauss welcomed China’s intention to make progress with the Catholic Church, but also voiced concerns over setbacks in guaranteeing religious freedom. “One case of growing concern is the treatment of Bishop Shao Zhumin by the authorities. Since autumn last year he seems to have been forced to move to unknown locations no less than four times and now seems to have been confined to his home since his return. His full freedom of movement should be restored,” AsiaNews reported the letter as saying
The ambassador also expressed concern over the new draft Regulations on Religious Affairs, released by the State Council last September. He said, “If unchanged, they could place further restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief.”
Burke said that the Vatican hopes that Bishop Shao “may return as soon as possible to the diocese and that he can be assured the possibility of serenely exercising his episcopal ministry.” 
The Sunday Examiner reported on June 25 that Bishop Shao has been welcomed as bishop by those who have traditionally belonged to both the official and unofficial Church communities.
The local people also say that this is one reason why the bishop is afforded so much attention, as the government has been doing all it can to sustain and aggravate the divisions between the people.

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