Shaanxi bishop on 'study retreat'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2007, 12:00am

A Shaanxi bishop, who has been described by the mainland government as illegal, has been put under house arrest for more than a month, colleagues said yesterday.

Wu Qinjing, 38, was taken from his church by Zhouzhi county authorities on March 17, according to a priest from Zhouzhi diocese who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bishop Wu's whereabouts were not immediately known, but the priest said he could possibly have been taken to Lintong or Xian , and his colleagues were still negotiating with the provincial religious affairs bureau to release the bishop as soon as possible.

'They took Bishop Wu away on the excuse of a 'study retreat', but he is able to administer church affairs where he is staying now,' the priest said. However, he added that the bishop 'is not allowed to contact the priests and the faithful'.

'We are really hoping that they will release Bishop Wu soon so that we can set our minds at rest,' the priest said.

Bishop Wu, a Shaanxi native, was appointed by late Xian archbishop Li Duan , one of China's most important church figures, last year to lead a congregation of 60,000 Catholics in Zhouzhi diocese, the largest in Xian province.

Bishop Wu's appointment was approved by the Vatican, but his leadership is not recognised by the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

In a government document released on March 9, Bishop Wu was described as illegal because he had violated a regulation that bans religious bodies from being controlled by foreign influences.

'Wu Qinjing should not run any church affairs as a bishop and should not interfere with the Zhouzhi diocese management,' it said.

The document said the government had been 'educating' Bishop Wu since May last year but the bishop still 'brazenly conducted illegal religious activities'.

The document, which has been distributed among Catholics in Zhouzhi diocese, called for Catholics to 'draw a line of demarcation' from the bishop.

Liu Jinye , a deputy inspector from the provincial religious affairs bureau, denied yesterday that Bishop Wu was under house arrest.

'He is in a study programme to study the country's laws and regulations and policies,' Mr Liu said. He said it was unclear when the programme would finish.