10/13/2005, 00.00
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China: Msgr. Peter Zhang Bairen, unofficial bishop of Hanyang, dies

The prelate served 24 years in prison and slave labour camp for his loyalty to the Holy See. His detention started in 1955 when, in front of policemen's guns, said: "Shoot me dead, but I will not renounce the Pope".

Rome (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Mons. Zhang Bairen, unofficial bishop of Hanyang in Hubei province, died yesterday from heart ailments, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

The bishop, also known as Peter Chang, served 24 years in jail for his loyalty to the pope. Bishop Zhang wrote in 1997 about his detention: "On September 13, 1955 when policemen, with their guns pointing at me, blustered and threatened me to get me to renounce the Pope in Rome, I told them bluntly 'shoot me dead, but I will not renounce the Pope.'  I was not shot, but spent 24 hard years in prison and slave labor camp."

Bishop Chang was born on February 14, 1915, entered minor seminary in 1926, major seminary in 1936, studied at Pontificio Collegio Urbano in Rome 1937-1945, and was awarded a Ph.D. in Theology by Collegio Urbano.  He was ordained a priest on December 19, 1942 and a bishop in 1986.

His diocese now has almost 60.000 faithful. In one of his writings he recalled: "When I took charge of the diocese of Hanyang on January 16, 1953, I solemnly offered my diocese to the Immaculate Heart [of Mary] and asked her to grant us two favors: that our diocese be exempted from the pestilence of religious reformation against the Pope in Rome; and that I, the weakest of all men, be not a Judas. Forty-five years of severe persecution has passed since we offered our diocese to the Immaculate Heart. The facts proved that the Immaculate Heart has kindly granted us the two favors we had asked."

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