The Holy See expressed its “grave concern” after the disappearance of Msgr. Pierre Shao Zhumin, Bishop of Wenzhou, in the coastal province of Zhejiang (Continental China). A statement released by Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, on June 26, 2017, pleads for his return, stressing the need to foster “ways of understanding.” The Chinese diocese has had no news regarding the Bishop since May 18.
“The Holy See is observing with grave concern the personal situation of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, forcibly removed from his episcopal see some time ago,” reads the statement. At age 54, he has been bishop of his diocese since the death of his predecessor in September 2016.
“The diocesan Catholic community and his relatives have no news or reasons for his removal, nor do they know where he is being held,” specifies Burke. “In this respect, the Holy See, profoundly saddened for this and other similar episodes that unfortunately do not facilitate ways of understanding, expresses the hope that Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin may return as soon as possible to the diocese and that he can be assured the possibility of serenely exercising his episcopal ministry.”
“We are all invited to pray for Bishop Shao Zhumin and for the path of the Catholic Church in China,” concluded the message.
According to the Churches of Asia Agency (EDA) of the Foreign Missions of Paris, Bishop Wenzhou disappeared from circulation after having been “invited” last May 18 to an interview with functionaries of the local Office of Religious Affairs. Since then, the Bishop has not reappeared in public. On May 22, he made it know that he was in need of wine for Mass, but no one was able to contact him on his mobile phone. According to local sources, Monsignor Shao is in Wenzhou, retained in a police residence.
EDA offered an analysis of the situation, estimating that the diocese of Wenzhou “could be described as emblematic of the efforts the Holy See deploys to foster the unity of the ‘underground’ communities and the ‘official’ local Church.” Efforts, notes the agency, that evidently do not satisfy the Chinese authorities. “
In view of fostering the unity of the two communities, in 2007 Rome appointed Father Vincent Zhu Weifang, member of the “official” clergy, Bishop of Wenzhou, with Father Shao Zhumin, member of the “underground” clergy as Co-adjutor. However, after the death of Monsignor Zhu on September 7, 2016 his successor Monsignor Shao came up against “permanent manoeuvres of interference by the civil authorities in the life of the Church.” He never stopped “being subjected to the harassment of the authorities.”
“With this new ‘incommunicado’ episode that is prolonged, one could think that the young Bishop is facing renewed pressures by the authorities to lead him to come to terms with the religious policy of the government in place,” concludes EDA.