The Vatican is worried about what has happened to a bishop in China, who they say was “forcibly removed,” and has now disappeared.
Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin has been missing for some time, according to Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke. Bishop Zhuman disappeared from his diocese in Wenzhou in southeastern China.
According to Burke, “The diocesan Catholic community and his relatives have no news or reasons for his removal, nor do they know where he is being held.” Sources in China claim he has been in detention since May 18.
Friends of the bishop fear he is being forcibly converted to the state-run Chinese Catholic Church, which is known officially as the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Presently, the bishop belongs to the underground Catholic Church which is recognized by the Vatican.
China and the Vatican have suffered from strained relations for decades because the Chinese government is atheistic and nationalistic. This puts it at adds with the Catholic Church which recognizes God as the highest authority.
However, the Communist Chinese government does allow the Catholic Church to practice within the country, but under a strict set of rules. Catholics face great difficulty building churches and expanding facilities. Preaching, is regulated and nothing can ever be said that can be construed as opposed to the government.
Burke added, “The Holy See hopes that Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin may return as soon as possible to his diocese and that he be allowed to carry out his mission in peace.”
China has about 12 million known Catholics out of a population of 1.38 billion people.
By Marshall Connolly