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Plea for missing Chinese bishop

Hong Kong (UCAN): Su Tianyou, the nephew of Bishop James Su Zhimin of the unofficial Church in Baoding, Hebei province, has appealed for information about his whereabouts. The bishop has been missing for 23 years.
 
“His whereabouts are unknown and I don’t even know if he is alive or not. I am upset with tears every time I think of this 87-year-old man. Please pray for him,” Su said.
 
Bishop Su was arrested in 1996 and deemed a counter-revolutionary by the communist government for refusing to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He escaped detention in 1997 but was rearrested. His family discovered him by chance at a Baoding hospital in 2003. He has not been seen in public since.
 
The bishop’s nephew said that in 2015 he had met Guo Wei, a religious affairs official who was involved in China-Vatican negotiations at that time. He said that Guo told him to wait for an improvement in China-Vatican relations before Bishop Su could be released.
 
Although the relationship appeared to improve after Beijing and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on episcopal appointments last September, there is still no information about missing clergy and authorities have detained even more.
 
Su claimed that the Vatican spoke to Beijing about Bishop Su’s case but he doesn’t know how the negotiations proceeded.
 
“The disappearance of Bishop Su may have a serious impact since it is a big issue at the international level,” he said.
 
In Hong Kong, Lina Chan, executive secretary of the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, said China-Vatican negotiations cannot ignore missing clergy such as Bishop Su and Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang of Yixian in Hebei.
 
“One of the reasons to negotiate is to let the Chinese faithful normalise their religious life. The missing bishops, however, show how abnormal it is,” Chan said.
 
Bishop Su has been arrested at least five times and has been in prison for more than 40 years in total.
 
The official Church community of Baoding is headed by 69-year-old Bishop Francis An Shuxin who was coadjutor bishop of the unofficial community before joining the official Church in 2010.
 
Su said the diocese has been split by many years of struggles between various parties.
 
“For the future, it seems there is not much hope. Everyone listens to the government. Priests are not united. We wait and hope for a miracle,” he said.

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