China frees Catholic bishop after 15 months
Jul 8, 2010, 7:40 GMT
Beijing - China has released a non-state-authorized Catholic bishop from detention after 15 months despite his refusal to accept Beijing's supervision of his religious practice, a US-based Catholic group said Thursday.
Police, religious affairs and local government officials summoned an aide of Jia Zhiguo, the bishop of the unregistered or 'underground' Roman Catholic diocese of Zhengding in the northern province of Hebei, to escort Jia home Wednesday, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said.
But before leaving a government office in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, Jia told the police and officials that he still did not accept the state's authority over his church and remained loyal to the Vatican, Joseph Kung, the head of the foundation, said in a statement.
'We were told that Bishop Jia had lost some weight,' Kung said. 'So far, there has been no police surveillance on the bishop after he was released.'
Jia, 75, previously spent 18 years in prison. His recent detention followed his 13th arrest since 2004.
The Vatican said it felt 'deep pain' over the rearrest of Jia last year.
He was apparently not charged with any crime during his detention.
Beijing and the Vatican broke off ties in 1951 after the Holy See recognized the government of Taiwan, the island that China sees as its breakaway province.
Pope Benedict XVI was seen to have broken new ground in relations with Beijing when in June 2007 he sent a letter to Chinese Catholics expressing admiration for the Chinese people but also the need for greater religious freedom in China.
The Catholic Church in China is split into about 5 million members of the government-administered church, according to official statistics, and more than 10 million estimated members of the underground church, loyal to the Vatican.
Catholics in the underground church often face harassment from Chinese authorities.