Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin was set to succeed Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang after his recent death in the western city of Wenzhou - a place known as the 'Jerusalem of the East' because of the strong Christian presence there.
However Bishop Shao was arrested by Chinese authorities before he could attend Bishop Vincent's funeral, which 5,000 Christians reportedly attended despite government surveillance.
The bishop was ordained and supported by the Vatican but is opposed by the Chinese government because of his refusal to support its state-controlled churches.
Christianity in China is illegal outside government-monitored places, forcing millions to worship God underground or in houses.
It's understood the bishop has now been transported hundreds of miles from Wenzhou to north-west China, with some fearing he's put in one of the labour camps there.
A parishioner told the Daily Express: "If Bishop Shao surfaces to lead the whole diocese of Wenzhou, he has to overcome many problems, including the permission of the government, but the priests and the faithful in the open community welcome him."