A Chinese bishop whom the Vatican asked to step aside to make way for an excommunicated and illegitimate bishop has been arrested by police in China.
Asia News has reported today that His Excellency Vincent Guo Xijin, Bishop of Mindong (Fujian), and the chancellor of the diocese, Fr. Xu, were arrested by the police last evening.
According to reports, at 3:00 pm on March 26, Bishop Guo, 59, was called into the office for religious affairs where he met with government officials for over two hours. The content of the discussion is still unknown. At 7:00 pm he returned to his residence and prepared his bags to depart. At 10:00 pm he was taken away.
Last year, Bishop Guo disappeared at the hands of Chinese police just before Easter and reappeared 20 days later.
Representatives of the underground Church in China say Bishop Guo was taken away for having refused to concelebrate the Easter liturgies with Bishop Zhan Silu, an illegitimate and excommunicated bishop approved by the Chinese authorities.
Earlier this year Bishop Guo was asked by the Vatican to cede his office to Zhan Silu. According to the proposed agreement, Guo was to assume the title of auxiliary bishop of the diocese.
The authentic Catholic Church, headed by bishops approved by the Holy See, is often referred to as the “underground” Catholic Church in China. The government runs the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Another legitimate bishop, Zhuang of Shantou, was similarly asked to cede his post to an excommunicated government-approved bishop, in a Vatican-led effort to seek an agreement with the Chinese government.
The move has been hailed by some as signaling a historic agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese government over the appointment of bishops. Yet others, including Hong Kong’s highly respected Cardinal Joseph Zen, have sharply criticizedthe Vatican over the proposed deal.
The arrest comes about two weeks after Chinese bishops appointed by the country’s communist government voiced support for the Vatican’s dealings with China that may allow the government to decide who becomes bishop. The agreement is expected at any time.