Peter Shao Zhumin: Detained Chinese Catholic bishop freed

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There are an estimated 12 million practising Catholics in China

A Chinese Catholic bishop who was detained for seven months has been freed, the Vatican says.

The Church had expressed grave concern for Peter Shao Zhumin, who was removed from his diocese last May.

His friends said they feared that he was being pressured by the authorities to pledge his allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party instead of the Church.

His disappearance led to a public row between China and the Vatican.

Relations have been strained by disputes over who can appoint bishops in the country.

However recent reports have said that the Vatican and Beijing are drawing closer to reaching an historic agreement governing the selection of bishops for 10 million Chinese Roman Catholics.

There are currently about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican and, informally, many now approved by both.

There are thought to be about 12 million practising Catholics in China, divided between officially-sanctioned and underground churches.