Bishop James Su Zhimin was last seen 17 years ago by a Catholic in a hospital in Baoding, Hebei province. At age 88, and with no contact since 2003, many have presumed him to be dead. Born in 1932, he has withstood house arrests, imprisonment, and labor camps for over 30 years.
The Chinese underground clergy refused to join the state-approved Catholic Church, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), and for this, he was arrested by the authorities in 1997. Bishop Su’s nephew, Su Tianyou, said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had asked the Vatican to appoint Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin so the underground church will submit to state authority.
Bishop An was Bishop Su’s assistant, who originally belonged to the underground church. In 1996, the authorities detained Bishop An and placed him under house arrest for ten years, then released him in 2006 after he agreed to start working for the CCPA. After this change, Baoding’s underground church no longer recognizes him as their bishop, as they refuse to tow the Chinese line. Most Catholics consider Bishop An a traitor who left his faith to pursue a life of comfort.
With the latest demand from the CCP on Bishop An’s appointment, some speculate that Bishop Su might be indeed with the Lord. Su Tianyou is asking the Vatican to take Bishop Su’s case and demand his release. He also told UCA News that the Vatican’s cooperation with Beijing is a betrayal of Catholics like Bishop Su, who have been standing up to the CCP.