Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Chinese bishop still detained, two years after protesting illicit ordinations

The vicar of the diocese of Xuanhua, in the Chinese province of Hebei, has been in prison for more than two years while his 90-year-old mother is too ill and no one takes care of her.

Msgr. Simone Zhang Jianlin, general vicar of the Xuanhua diocese - the same diocese whose underground bishop is Msgr. Augustine Cui Tai, who is also repeatedly deprived of his freedom - has been detained since he was taken away by the police in April 2021 and until now has not been granted any personal freedom.

Bishop Zhang was arrested for criticising illegitimate priestly and diaconal ordinations. 

On 11 May 2021, Bishop Guo Jincai of Chengde diocese, without the consent of the bishops of Xuanhua and Xiwanzi dioceses, violated Church discipline and went to the Catholic Church in Qujiazhuang, Xuanhua diocese, ordaining three priests and a deacon for the 'Zhangjiakou diocese'.  

This diocese, however, does not exist for the Holy See, but only for the government, and the territory is divided between the dioceses of Xuanhua and Xiwanzi.

Vicar Zhang offended the authorities by disseminating the Holy See's clarifications and the rules of canon law, warning the diocese's priests not to participate in illegal ordination ceremonies.

Prior to the ordination, the government forcibly detained Msgr Zhang and so far he has not been released. Msgr Zhang's 90-year-old mother is weak and ill, and she recently became ill and was hospitalised. Msgr Zhang's mother is usually cared for by her daughter who is also frail and ill.

According to some believers, the family fervently hopes that the authorities will release Mgr Zhang as soon as possible on humanitarian grounds, so that he can take care of his elderly and sick mother.

AsiaNews sources report that the illegal ordination carried out by Bishop Guo Jincai in the Xuanhua diocese has seriously disrupted the administration of the two dioceses of Xuanhua and Xiwanzi, adding to the confusion.