A bishop in China’s underground Church, who has repeatedly been detained or placed under house arrest since 2007, has temporarily been released to see his family for the Chinese New Year.
Bishop Augustine Cui Tai, 69, of Hebei province, will be returned to solitary confinement after the New Year’s holidays, which begins on the evening of Jan. 24, has concluded, priests from his diocese told AsiaNews.
The Chinese New Year officially begins on Jan. 25 and the holiday season runs until Feb. 8.
Bishop Cui Tai was detained in March 2019 after a former clergyman from his dioceses, Father Francesco Zhang Li, called on authorities to arrest him.
Father Zhang Li, who joined China’s state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), had accused Bishop Cui Tai of not abiding by a 2018 agreement between Beijing and the Vatican concerning bishop appointments in China.
Members of the CPCA have regularly claimed, without evidence, that the agreement compels members of the underground Church to join the state-backed Church.
Prior to his arrest, Bishop Cui Tai had accused Zhang of “causing divisions within the Church,” as the Holy See does not recognize the CPCA.
Bishop Cui Tai further prohibited Father Zhang from exercising the ministry or receiving any sacrament, prompting Father Zhang’s call for the bishop’s arrest.
AsiaNews reports that Bishop Cui Tai has been “illegally detained” or placed under house arrest since 2007, where he has been locked up in “secret detention centers,” hotels or forcibly taken away on “trips” while in the custody of government officials.
Chinese authorities have previously released Bishop Cui Tai to visit his elderly sister for the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.