August 26, 2006

China releases underground Catholic bishop: group

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

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

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

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

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