02/03/2010, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN

Bishop Wang Chonglin, bishop of Zhaoxian (Xingtai) dies

by Zhen Yuan
As a priest he spent 21 years in prison. He was ordained underground bishop, acknowledged by the Holy See, and then recognized by the government. The faithful remember his great commitment to evangelization and formation of priests and nuns.

Zhaoxian (AsiaNews) – Bishop Raymond Wang Chonglin, bishop of Zhaoxian (Hebei), died on Monday of a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 88. During Maoism in 1950s-70s, he spent 21 years in prison. His funeral will be held on 8 February, at 9.30 am in the Cathedral of Biancun. The administrator of the diocese, Fr Simon Gao Baojin, confirmed to AsiaNews that the burial will take place the same day, at 1pm local time.  

Fr. Gao points out that Bishop Wang has always been dedicated to training priests, seminarians and nuns, receiving the gratitude of his faithful. "We were brought up by his testimony since we were little," he said. "With a total trust in God – he adds - Bishop Wang urged all the faithful in evangelization, living a very simple and sober life".  

Born in May 1921, Bishop Wang expressed the desire to become a priest since he was 14 years old. He was ordained priest in 1950.  

In 1957, in the Party campaign against the Church, Bishop Wang was arrested and sent to prison for 21 years. Released in '79, he returned to evangelizing Hebei.    

In 83 he was ordained underground bishop, and recognized by the Holy See as bishop of Zhaoxian with the mandate to administer to the area of Weixian.  In  ‘85 he reopened the diocesan seminary that had been closed in the '50s, and in '88 he formed a convent for female vocations.

In 88 the government has named him as bishop of Xingtai, covering Church matters in Zhaoxian, Shunde and Weixian.

In 2006 he retired, leaving the pastoral care of the diocese to Bishop Jiang Mingyuan, a bishop unofficially ordained by him in August 2000.  Although the government has hindered the succession, Bishop Jiang officially headed the diocese in 2006. Bishop Wang retired. But in 2007 Bishop Jiang fell ill and asked Bishop Wang to resume care of the diocese. Bishop Jiang died in July 2008.  

The (underground) Diocese of Zhaoxian overlaps with those of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai (according to administrative subdivisions of the government). This could have brought tensions and difficulties with the authorities. Anthony Lam, a researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, who has met Bishop Wang a few times, said that the bishop "was very intelligent and capable of finding solutions to problems, without a direct confrontation with the government”.  

Lam also recalled the great efforts of Bishop Wang in the formation of priests and nuns. "He was very strong physically - he adds - and also very optimistic. He realised important pastoral and missionary work especially in the countryside. "
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