CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 June 2018

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Wenzhou bishop released from detention

WWENZHOU (AsiaNews): Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, from Wenzhou in Zhejiang, was released from detention on January 3. Named by the Vatican as the bishop for both the official and unofficial communities in Wenzhou, he is not recognised by the Chinese government and was taken away by police and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau on 18 May 2017 (Sunday Examiner, 4 June 2017).
 
However, he has freedom of movement although sources say he is not in Wenzhou but in Xining in Qinghai, which is 2,500 kilometres away.
 
The reason for his release is still unclear. According to some, it is the result of the campaign of prayers and fasts launched by the diocese last December 18, which immediately spread throughout the world. 
 
By releasing him, the authorities hope to prevent his case gaining even more global exposure. 
 
In the last few months, the German ambassador to Beijing, Michael Clauss, has called for his release and the Holy See has expressed concern over his fate.
 
Bishop Shao was last seen on September 11 at the Tongren Hospital in Beijing (Sunday Examiner, 24 September 2017), where he underwent ear surgery. 
 
He posted a message on his WeChat account asking or prayers, but discouraged visits. A photo of the bishop was posted on the Internet and went viral. 
 
Following the operation he remained under police custody and was taken to Xining to recuperate.
 
Sources say that, before returning to Wenzhou, he will have to go back to Tongren Hospital to fit a hearing aid.
 
The bishop has been under pressure to join the Patriotic Association for some time and, in early December, representatives of Religious Affairs Bureau asked him to sign on the four conditions for receiving government recognition of his episcopal status: support for the principle of an independent Church; support for self-nomination and self-ordination of bishops; concelebration with a bishop not recognised by the Vatican; submission to the new religious regulations that will take effect in February. He reportedly refused.
 
Wenzhou has around 80,000 Catholics who are part of the unofficial Church with another 50,000 in the official community.

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