HONG KONG (UCAN): Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, and Father Lu Danhua of Lishui, were freed by authorities in China’s Zhejiang province on November 23 and 22.
Bishop Shao had been taken away by authorities on November 9, while Father Lu had been under detentions since December 29 last year.
Father Lu, who was ordained by Bishop Shao in 2016, is the only priest in sparsely populated Lishui Diocese, which is adjacent to Wenzhou.
A source, named Peter, said that authorities gave no reason for taking the bishop away but just said “going out for a talk,” while Father Lu was detained for illegally holding a Mass at Qingtian Catholic Church.
Peter said Father Lu was detained in a luxurious hotel only a five-minute walk away from his church. The hotel is used to isolate and review officials who violate rules and regulations of the Chinese Communist Party.
“When Father Lu was being detained, more than a dozen members of the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Public Security Bureau of Qingtian County took turns to look after him. Father Lu lived in a room and the guards watched outside,” Peter explained.
He said Qingtian County authorities took the priest away to “let the priest of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association occupy Qingtian Catholic Church.”
He said Father Lu was released because his brother was sick and needed his help.
Another source, named Thomas, said that he believed that Bishop Shao was taken away because Wenzhou Religious Affairs Bureau had always wanted to charge him, but there was no way to do so, so they “kicked this hot potato” to the Yueqing bureau.
Peter said Yueqing officials tried to intimidate the bishop to see if his attitude “has been loosened.”
He also pointed out that local officials had recently been going to parishes and asking communities of the unofficial Church to be “open” and join the government-approved sector.
“They said that the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement (on the appointment of bishops) implied that former popes had done something wrong, and the one now (Pope Francis) had withdrawn the punishment for eight illegal bishops,” Peter said.
“However, the Holy See said that it was they who asked for forgiveness and the pope accepted them back to the Church.”
He said the provisional agreement confused them and he thought it could not improve the situation of the unofficial Church in China.