VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples says reports that the Vatican pressured a Chinese bishop to join the national Church are false.
With a statement made public Tuesday, the congregation stressed that it did not pressure Bishop Francis An Shuxin to register with the Patriotic Association.
In an Oct. 31 note, the congregation stated through the Fides agency: “In recent days, news has circulated regarding the situation of the Diocese of Baoding, Hebei, mainland China, especially regarding Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin.
“This news speaks of a letter addressed to the prelate from the Holy See, in regard to his concelebration with an illegitimate bishop and attributes the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with having authorized the concelebration and of having pressured Bishop An to emerge from a clandestine condition, registering himself with the Patriotic Association.
“The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples completely rejects such affirmations as deprived of any foundation whatsoever.”
The bishop had endured 10 years of forced imprisonment and isolation because of his refusal to register with the Patriotic Association, which controls religious practice in China.
Three other bishops of Hebei are currently missing. Bishop James Su Zhimin, 75, the ordinary of Baoding, disappeared in 1996. Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, 86, of Yixian disappeared in 2001. And Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, 74, of Zhengding disappeared on March 30 of this year.
Underground priests Father Pang Guangzhao and Father Jiang Yanli also decided to register with the Patriotic Association and were released immediately from prison.