Beijing (AsiaNews) – Sources in China’s capital have told AsiaNews that Patriotic Church Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan is critically ill. After his conditions deteriorated he was moved to a new hospital for treatment. In the last few days Beijing Catholics have been asked to pray for him.
Bishop Fu Tieshan, 75, has been suffering from cancer for some time. For at least two years he has not performed any pastoral function and ha made very few public appearances.
Over the past few months his conditions deteriorated and took a turn for the worse about a week ago. A few days ago he received the ‘Anointing of the Sick’ and since then priests and nuns have lined up to say their goodbyes to him. According to some priests the patriotic bishop is still conscious; others have said that he is comatose or semi-comatose.
Archbishop Fu is one of the most controversial Church figures in China. Appointed bishop without papal approval by Beijing in 1979, he does not seem to have reconciled with the Pope yet as most other bishops in the official Church have done.
In fact he has strongly criticised many of the Vatican’s decisions whilst presiding himself over various unlawful Episcopal appointments (i.e. without Holy See approval).
For this reason Beijing Catholics have shied away from him to the point of walking out of religious services whenever he was present.
His subordination to and fear of the authorities earned him however promotions and many appointments. In 1998 he became the state-sanctioned church's figurehead as chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Member of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, he became a vice-chairman of its Standing Committee, deputy chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and since 2003 the Deputy Speaker of the Congress itself.
Among Beijing priests, there are rumours that when he received the anointing of the sick, unable to speak, he shed some tears.
Lately, Fr Sun Shangen, an elderly priest, has temporarily taken charge of the daily operations of the archdiocese. Previously, the task had been performed by two Episcopal vicars.
Given the situation the Patriotic Association and the government’s Religious Affairs Bureau have been busy vetting the various candidates to determine who might replace Archbishop Fu Tieshan.