Wang Zhicheng

(AsiaNews) – Msgr Vincent Guo Xijin, underground bishop of Mindong, has been missing for four days after he went to Religious Affairs Office in Fuan on 6 April.

Although not recognised by the government, Msgr Guo is the ordinary bishop of the diocese following the death of his predecessor, Msgr Huang Shoucheng on 30 July 2016.

Reacting to concerns expressed by Catholics who do not know where their missing leader is, the head of Public Security in Ningde said that the bishop “needs to study and learn” and will remain in custody for 20 days for this purpose.

This has not allayed local concerns. For one, this means that the bishop will not be able to celebrate all the rituals of Holy Week and Easter. More importantly, Public Security has not said where the bishop is “studying” so it is unlikely to anyone will be allowed to contact him.

In the diocese, the prevailing view is that the bishop is being brainwashed to get him to join and submit to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

Membership in the diocese of Mindong is mostly underground Catholics, more than 80,000 out of 90,000, highly organized and capable, with more than 45 priests, 200 nuns, 300 consecrated lay women and hundreds of lay catechists.

The underground bishop is well liked and in good terms with all the faithful, even those in the official Church. For the CPCA, this is humiliating since the Holy See, after the death of Msgr Huang, confirmed Msgr Guo as his successor in the post of ordinary bishop.

According to some local priests, the CPCA is seeking confrontation with the underground community. Two years ago, police in Fuan demolished an unofficial church under construction, but in view of the underground community’s size, it always left them alone without causing too many problems.

“It is impossible for the bishop to join the CPCA. He will never do it,” one priest said. However, this will likely mean that he will not come back to head the diocese. For this reason, Catholics in Mindong are asking Christians to pray for Msgr Guo.

Msgr Vincent Guo Xijin, 59, was ordained coadjutor bishop of Mindong on 28 December 2008.

He became a priest in 1984. He taught in seminaries and served as the diocese’s economic administrator. However, his most important work was to sustain and encourage men and women in their respective religious vocations. He equally encouraged his young seminarians to study in public universities and colleges.

As unofficial priest, he spent time in prison in 1990-92, 1993-’94, and 1996. In the late 1990s, he was briefly appointed as apostolic administrator of the diocese of Wenzhou.

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