The Vatican has expressed “grave concern” over the situation of a bishop in mainland China who has been in government custody for almost 10 months and moved repeatedly in an apparent attempt to prevent him from assuming leadership of his diocese.

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin had been coadjutor bishop of Wenzhou and should have taken over leadership of the diocese in September when his predecessor died. Instead, officials took him to northern China “on a trip.”

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement: “The Holy See is following with grave concern the personal situation of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, forcibly removed from his episcopal see some time ago.

“The diocesan Catholic community and his relatives have no news or reasons for his removal, nor do they know where he is being held,” Mr Burke said.

The treatment of Bishop Zhumin “and other similar episodes”, Mr Burke said, do not foster the kind of understanding that the Holy See wants to reach with the Chinese government.

While Bishop Zhumin’s appointment was approved by the Vatican, the government did not recognise his election.

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