Chinese bishop released after 10 years in prison

An auxiliary bishop who refused to join China's government-backed Patriotic Association, has been released after 10 years in prison in what may be among the first results of recent secret talks between the Vatican and Beijing.

AsiaNews reports that in an apparent breakthrough, Bishop Francis An Shuxin, who was released on 24 August, has been recognised by the government but has managed not to register with the Patriotic Association, a government agency which has oversight over China's Catholics.

However, six other bishops are still detained in China's Hebei province.

Sources told AsiaNews that the Bishop was released because he accepted to be recognised by the government but without registering with the Patriotic Association.

Bishop An Shuxin, 57 years, was arrested in May 1996 in a raid ordered by the then-President, Jiang Zemin, against the underground seminary of Baoding (Hebei). After his arrest, the seminary was disbanded and priests on the formation team were arrested.

Until yesterday, there was no news of him at all, although churches, governments, and organisations persisted in calling for his release.

According to the Kung Foundation, an American organisation that lobbies for the Church's freedom in China, the only time the Bishop was seen was in 2000, when the police allowed him to visit his mother, who was very elderly, to mark the Chinese New Year. He had told her: "I will see you in heaven."

AsiaNews sources that talked to the Bishop said he had been "treated well" throughout these years, although his movements were restricted.

However, during this time, testimonies of priests and bishops who were tortured came from Hebei itself.

To date, only one another Chinese bishop, Lucas Li Jingfeng, the Bishop of Fengxiang, has been in a similar situation.

Bishop Li is one of four bishops who was invited by Benedict XVI to the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005 and who was prevented by Beijing - together with the other three - from going to Rome.

"While the release of Bishop An is a good sign, there are six more bishops in jail," said Joseph Kung, head of the Foundation. "We hope that this release is not an isolated case."

Mgr Francis An Shuxin released after 10 years (Asia News, 26/8/06)
China releases Catholic bishop (Sunday Age, 27/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cardinal Kung Foundation

Holy See sends envoys to Beijing for secret talks (CathNews, 19/6/06)
China's first Catholic non-profit approved but arrests continue (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews, 5/5/06)
Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews, 9/9/05)
Rome condemns arrest of Chinese bishops/murder of Korean hostage (CathNews, 23/6/04)
Chinese bishop freed from detention after foreign visitors depart (CathNews, 17/3/04)

28 Aug 2006