Police stood before the cathedral and among the faithful, some in plainclothes; yet everything went smoothly. Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo is not recognized by the government and is under house arrest, monitored day and night. He is often forced to attend indoctrination classes away from his diocese. Pressures continue on underground priests – even with enticements and cash – to join the Patriotic Association.
Rome (AsiaNews) - "It's a miracle! It is protection from Heaven!” said some Catholics from the underground community in Zhengding (Hebei) after what happened on Sunday, December 13.
About 10,000 faithful from Zhengding, Lingshou, Beijing, and Baoding had gathered outside the cathedral (pictured) to celebrate the beginning of the Jubilee and the opening of the Holy Door.
The "miracle" is that police, which is always present in front of the church, did nothing to prevent the event and did not arrest anyone. (Perhaps) an even greater miracle was the fact that the underground bishop led the liturgy, which lasted from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.
Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo, who is not recognized by the government, has been under house arrest for years for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), and for remaining loyal to the pope.
The CPCA is a Communist Party agency whose aim is to establish a Catholic Church independent from the pope.
Mgr Jia Zhiguo lives near Zhengding cathedral and is monitored day and night. He is often taken away for a week or two of “holiday" – i.e. classes of indoctrination and brainwashing – to convince him to join the CPCA.
Despite this, "it is amazing,” said a nun, “that so many people could gather for so long and no one was arrested. It is likely that there were plainclothes police mingled with the crowd, but nothing happened."
A procession followed by a series of readings from Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy, preceded the solemn opening of the Holy Door in Zhengding. A single Eucharistic ceremony followed the door opening.
For years, the Chinese government has been trying to eliminate unregistered underground communities, whose “crime” is that of engaging in unsupervised religious activities. For this reason, priests involved in underground services are often imprisoned.
In recent months, many underground priests and bishops have come under strong pressure to join the CPCA, through enticements and offers of money.
Despite the constant monitoring to which he is subjected, Mgr Jia Zhiguo is well liked by the police as well as the population.
For a long time, he hosted at his residence about 200 abandoned children and disabled people, taking care of them along with some nuns and faithful.