Shijiazhuang (AsiaNews) - The funeral of Mgr. Paul Taoran Jiang, retired bishop of Shijiazhuang, will be held tomorrow in a local church, but it is unlikely that will be officiated by Mgr. Jia Zhiguo, bishop of Zhending and ordinary of the same diocese, but of its underground community.
Bishop Jiang, ordained without papal mandate in 1989 but in communion with the Holy See since 2008, died in hospital from illness last November 15 at the age of 84. The deceased led the official church of the diocese for 20 years.
A priest from Zhengding told AsiaNews that bishop Jia prayed for his brother in the episcopate immediately after receiving news of the death, and sent his priests to Shijiazhuang to express their condolences.
Bishop Jia also celebrated a requiem mass on the same evening and asked the Zhengding faithful to pray for the deceased. He stresses that the bishop had talks with the government, expressing his desire to attend Mgr. Jiang’s funeral of since they never succeeded in meeting in life.
But this hope seems impossible, given that since last November 8 Mgr. Jia is subject to 24 hour detention and has in fact lost all freedom.
However, adds the priest of the diocese, Mgr. Jia is optimistic about the development of the diocese. According to the priest, the bishop said: "The Pope's letter to China is the direction of the diocese, which promotes dialogue and communion. These results are achieved with mutual respect and constructive dialogue in the hope of achieving unity and communion in a gradual manner. "
Mgr. Jiang’s funeral was attended by bishops Liu Jing and Fang Jiangping, both of Tangshan, and a large number of priests from the province of Hebei. A source in the area of Shijiazhuang, told AsiaNews that Mgr. Jia and some unofficial priests of Zhengding, who have registered with the government, have received a request to attend the funeral. However, no one knows how many may attend.
Mid September last, Mgr. Jia sent some priests and lay people to deliever his best wishes to Mgr. Jiang for the autumn holidays, hoping to strengthen reconciliation between the official and underground Church communities of the same diocese.
Bishop Jiang was ordained priest in 1953, the year after he was sent first to Beijing and then to Yixian (Hebei Province), where he stayed from 1954 to 1959. From 1958 to 1967 he worked first in a hospital and later was sent to a farm for "re-education through labour”. Between 1978 and 1981 he returned to work at the hospital.
In 1982 he started the ministry in Shijiazhuang, was ordained bishop of the diocese in 1989. In 2008 he was legitimized without jurisdiction, and ordered to obey the ordinary bishop - Bishop. Jia - who had been released in July after a long detention.
According to an article of Faith Press, Mgr. Jiang ordained a large number of priests, gave new impetus to diocesan religious congregations and succeeded in obtaining the restitution of a lot of church property. He also founded the Anna Association for the lay faithful of the diocese.