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  • » 04/20/2007, 00.00


    Patriotic Church bishop critically ill

    The controversial prelate has been ill for several years. Many faithful have often avoided him because of his anti-Vatican views. In public life he has taken on many functions but China’s Catholic Patriotic Association has been preparing his succession for some time.

    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.

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    See also

    22/11/2007 CHINA – VATICAN
    Chinese priest sentenced to three years for inaugurating a state-sanctioned church
    False testimonies and party-influenced judges are a slap in the face of Hu Jintao’s “harmonious society.” Underground Catholics are learning the meaning of “normalisation" so that they can toe the line of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association whose raison d’être, according to the Pope, is “incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

    01/09/2006 CHINA – VATICAN
    Church endures economic persecution as the Patriotic Association tries to seize Church property
    Church property, which the government has said it will return, is estimated to be worth 13 billion euros. But the Religious Affairs Bureau, the Patriotic Association and local governments freely dispose of it and its revenues.

    25/07/2007 CHINA
    The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association celebrates 50 years at a less than ideal moment
    Founded on August 2, 1957, the association is less and less able to serve its original purpose, namely to manage the Catholic community on behalf of the government. Some 5,000 invited guests are expected for the celebrations but many will be absent.

    27/04/2007 CHINA
    A thousand people at Fu Tieshan’s funeral
    Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and other figures of the Leadership attend to state funeral. Low Catholic turnout.

    21/04/2007 CHINA - VATICAN
    State funeral for Beijing’s Patriotic bishop, party “property”
    Despite the request made by the Patriotic Association, there will be no Vatican representative at the burial. Officially praised as “a great friend of the communist party”. Doubts surround the date of his death.

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