China Releases Underground Catholic Bishop
China Releases Underground Catholic Bishop

BEIJING — China, which says its Catholics must belong to a state-backed church that does not recognise the Pope's authority, has freed an underground bishop after more than 10 years in jail, the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation said.

Bishop An Shuxin, 57, who once preached in the northern province of Hebei, was released from prison on Thursday, but remained under surveillance despite appearing to have a permit to work as a bishop in China, it said in a faxed statement.

The conditions of his release were not known, it said.

“While the release of Bishop An is a good sign, there are six more bishops in jail,” said Joseph Kung, head of the foundation. “We hope that this release is not an isolated case.”

All other underground bishops were under surveillance or house arrest or in hiding, Kung said in the statement seen on Saturday.

Beijing has had no official ties with the Vatican since 1951 and insists relations cannot be resumed unless the Holy See severs links with the self-ruled island of Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty.

Religion has flourished in China since economic reforms were launched in the late 1970s, but the nation's Communist rulers insist all faiths remain firmly in the grip of the atheist state.

The Vatican estimates it has 8 million followers in China, compared with about 5 million who follow the state-backed church.

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