Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin was taken into custody in late 2016 and has not been seen since.
In late 2016, one of the bishops in the small parish of Wenzhou in China passed away. Per the canon law, the Vatican appointed his co-adjutor bishop in the diocese his successor. The approved bishop, however, did not even get to start his episcopal duties. Days, before he could even preside over the Mass for his predecessor, Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, was taken into custody by the Chinese government. Ten months after his capture Zhumin’s friends and relatives do not know of his whereabouts and why he was “taken on a trip” by the government. In fact, in those ten months, no one has communicated with the Vatican-appointed bishop.
On June 20, the Vatican released a statement urging the Chinese government to release Bishop Zhumin so that he could continue with his mission. Greg Burke, the Director of the Vatican’s Press Office, passed on the Pontiff’s message to the communist leadership. “The Holy See is concerned about the well-being of the Bishop,” Burke noted. He added that the Pope hoped that the government would release Zhumin to continue with the mission of the church. Pope Francis is not the only one concerned about Zhumin’s disappearance. His friends and family, who do not know where Zhumin is, say that they worry about his safety. They also feel shortchanged because the Chinese government refuses to tell them anything about where they have Zhumin.
As the case of the Wenzhou Bishop lags on, people are coming up with different theories about his disappearance. One of the groups with a working theory is the Rome-based Catholic news agency AsiaNews. AsiaNews reported that the last time Zhumin was cited was on May 18th. According to the agency, it is possible that Zhumin was taken by the government to make him join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Chinese Catholics are divided into two groups. One group of Chinese Catholics subscribe to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The clergy of this sect is chosen by the Chinese government. The second group of Chinese citizens subscribes to the Roman Catholic faith under the Vatican. The leaders of this underground Catholic Church are chosen and approved of by the Vatican.
Because of the two groups of Catholics, the Chinese government and the Vatican are sometimes at odds, such as in the case of Zhumin. This is especially the case because while the Vatican approves state-appointed clergy for the CCPA, the government does not recognize Vatican-approved leaders for the underground Catholic Church. This behavior of the Chinese government when it comes to appointing clergy, therefore, credits the AsiaNews theory that the government took Zhumin to get him to lead the state-controlled Catholic churches instead.
With Zhumin still missing, many parties are calling put the Chinese government about his whereabouts. The Pope asked for his release via a press statement. Germany, on the other hand, asked China to hand over the bishop through their Ambassador to the Asian nation. Germany acknowledged that the Chinese government had been moving Zhumin around, and asked for his immediate release.