Church Requests Whereabouts of Chinese Bishop

Authorities Deny Knowing Anything about His Fate

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BEIJING, MAY 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Four years ago a bishop of the Chinese underground Church disappeared, and the government denies knowing anything about his fate.

There is grave concern that Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, 83, might end his days like Bishops Fan Xueyan and Li Lifang, who died in prison.

Wanting information, the Chinese underground Church — which recognizes the Pope’s authority, but is not officially approved by the Beijing authorities — made another public request to the government for confirmation of the detention of Bishop Shi Enxiang from Yixian, in the province of Hebei, explained AsiaNews.

On Feb. 12, 2002, Fides news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, published an incomplete list with 33 names of bishops and priests detained or not free to exercise their ministry (see ZENIT, Feb. 21, 2002) because they refuse to belong to the «Patriotic Association» or «official Church,» with which the Chinese government seeks to control the Church, creating an institution that is independent of obedience to the Pope.

Among the arrested prelates, mention was made of Bishop Shi Enxiang, ordained bishop in 1982. His last known detention was in December 1990, from which he was released in 1993.

The authorities were after Bishop Shi Enxiang since 1995. He eventually disappeared, at 81, from his niece’s home in Beijing on the morning of April 13, 2001. According to eyewitnesses, two cars bearing license plates from Xushui, in Hebei province, drove the Bishop away.

The family went to the police for information on his whereabouts, but were met with the latter’s refusal. Beijing’s police also denied knowing anything.

Even more recently, the bishop’s family went to the Xushui police again to ask for information, but received nothing.

Four years have gone by without any information on the bishops’ incarceration, with the authorities refusing to acknowledge knowing anything about it, reported AsiaNews.

The underground Church also asked for news about Father Liu Deli, 42, of the same Chinese diocese, whose fate has been unknown since March 1999. He was taken into custody by the government, after being invited to a meeting. There are no signs that he might be released any time soon.

In March, AsiaNews published an incomplete list of bishops and priests in prison, isolation, or condemned to labor camps. It included a petition to be sent to the Chinese government asking for the clergymen’s release.

The petition found support in Europe, the United States, on websites and in the press. Among its supporters include Mario Mauro, vice president of the European Parliament, and Bishop John H. Ricard of Tallahassee, Florida, chairman of the Committee on International Policy of the U.S. bishops’ conference, who wrote a letter to China’s ambassador in Washington asking for «information about the jailed bishops and priests» in China.

Beijing severed relations with the Holy See in 1951, expelling the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Riberi. China stipulates two conditions to resume relations: that the Pope not interfere in the country’s religious situation (among other things, that he not name bishops), and that he sever relations with Taiwan.

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