WASHINGTON (April 7, 2004) -- In a letter to the Chinese ambassador to the United States, the chairman of the bishops' International Policy Committee today protested the arrest of a Catholic bishop in China earlier this week.
In a letter to Ambassador Jiechi Yang, Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee, restated the words of a Vatican communiqué that the bishop's arrest "is inadmissible in a State of law that declares that it guarantees 'freedom of religion,' and 'respects and safeguards human rights.'"
Bishop Julius Jia ZhiGuo of Zhending (Hebei) was arrested on Monday and taken to an unknown location. He has been detained before for long periods of time for "the sole 'crime' of his functioning as an ordained religious leader in the unregistered Catholic Church in China," according to Bishop Ricard.
The full text of Bishop Ricard's letter to the ambassador follows:
"Dear Mr. Ambassador,
"We were pleased to note that Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, about whose arrest by the authorities on March 5th I had written to you on March 10th, was released on March 14th. It appears that the charges against him proved to be baseless, as we had assumed.
"Now we learn that another Catholic prelate, Bishop Julius Jia ZhiGuo of Zhengding (Hebei), was arrested at his home by government security police Monday afternoon, April 5th and taken to an unknown location.
"We know that Bishop Jia has been detained in the past for exceedingly long periods of time for the sole 'crime' of his functioning as an ordained religious leader in the unregistered Catholic Church in China. There is apparently no other reason for his being detained at this time.
"In the words of the Press Office of the Holy See on the matter of Bishop Jia's arrest, 'This is inadmissible in a State of law that declares that it guarantees 'freedom of religion' and 'respects and safeguards human rights.'' I hope we can soon learn, as in the case of Bishop Wei, that Bishop Jia's arrest was without merit and that he will be released.
"I would be grateful, Mr. Ambassador, if you would forward to your Government this expression of concern by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops."