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China: underground Church leader dead at 96

March 17, 2014

Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, a leader of China's "underground" Catholic Church, has died at the age of 96.

Bishop Fan, had served as president of the underground Church’s episcopal conference, died at home. He had been under house arrest for most of the past two decades.

Born in 1918 and baptized at age 14, Bishop Fan became a Jesuit in 1938 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1951. Four years later, the Communist regime sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

He was secretly ordained a bishop in 1985; 15 years later, Blessed John Paul II appointed him bishop of Shanghai. The government did not recognize his appointment.

Chinese government officials have allows only a private funeral service, taking place in a funeral parlor, for the deceased bishop. The government rejected a request from Catholics to hold the funeral in Shanghai's Catholic cathedral, where the funeral of Bishop Aloysius Jin was held last year. Bishop Jin had been recognized by the government as head of the Shanghai diocese, whereas Bishop Fan was never recognized by the Beijing regime.

Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who was ordained in 2012 as an auxiliary for the Shanghai diocese, with the approval of both the Vatican and the government, is now under house arrest. Bishop Ma lost the government's approval when, at his ordination ceremony, he announced that he was leaving the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association.


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  • Posted by: bruno - Mar. 17, 2014 7:29 PM ET USA

    Not armies nor foreign nations does the Chinese government fear, but poor frail old men speaking the truth. Bishop Z, pray for us!