Underground Bishop Freed But Still Under Surveillance
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AsiaNews (04/25/06) Mgr Giulio Jia Zhiguo was returned to his residence while Hu Jintao was on his way to the United States . The Church in Hebei continues to be the target of arrests for its refusal to subscribe to the Patriotic Association. Mgr Giulio Jia Zhiguo, unofficial bishop of Zhengding ( Hebei ) has returned to his residence after being detained for more than five months by police. Local sources of AsiaNews said his return was linked to the visit of Hu Jintao to the United States . The quasi-release of the bishop (who is under house arrest, watched day and night) in fact took place while Hu Jintao was on his way to the United States on 19 April.
The bishop was arrested on 8 November last, for the eighth time since 2004. Usually, the bishop is kept in isolation when Christian feasts are held, to prevent him from meeting believers and to be submitted to brainwashing. According to local sources, his last period of detention was no exception: the bishop was subjected to interrogations and pressured to join the Patriotic Association (PA).
For years, the Hebei government has sought to destroy the regions underground Catholic Church, with a community of more than one million worshippers, by forcing priests and bishops to become members of the PA. But bishops refuse because the PA is not a church organization and its statute provides for building a national church, independent of the Holy See. The bishops of Hebei , and Mgr Jia himself, are willing to register their communities at the State Office for Religious Affairs but not with the PA. In the past, the Vatican has often condemned the arrests of Mgr Jia, calling on Beijing to fully respect freedom of worship.