A Vatican-approved Chinese bishop remains in detention more than one year after his arrest for allegedly violating the communist country’s repressive regulations on religious affairs. Source: UCA News.
Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang in Henan province was arrested on May 21 last year.
His arrest came a day after police arrested 10 priests and an unknown number of seminarians from a Catholic seminary in the diocese that was set up in an abandoned factory building.
About a year ago, authorities in Xinxiang shut down Catholic schools and kindergartens in line with a government ban on education by religious groups.
All those arrested were accused of violating China’s regulations on religious affairs and subjected to “political lessons” in detention, media reports said.
The priests and seminarians were released after brief detention but remain under surveillance, while the seminary is still closed.
Bishop Zhang, 63, remains detained and his whereabouts are unknown.
Bitter Winter, a magazine covering religious liberty and human rights, reported that Bishop Zhang has long been targeted and oppressed by officials of the Chinese Community Party for not bowing to pressure to join the CCP-controlled Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Since his secret ordination with a Vatican mandate in 1991, Bishop Zhang has been under constant pressure and barred from carrying out his duties as bishop.
The bishop is reportedly among “conscientious objectors” who oppose the 2018 secretive Vatican-China agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops, which was renewed in 2020.
Since signing the deal, Chinese authorities have intensified their crackdown on underground churches controlled by the Vatican amid renewed pressure to join state-run church bodies.