04/26/2011, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN

Death of underground bishop of Luoyang. Decades under house arrest and hard labour

Jian Mei
Bishop Li Hongye, sick for a long time, died during the Easter Vigil, in his 67th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He suffered imprisonment for his loyalty to the pope. The funeral will be held April 29.

Luoyang (AsiaNews) – Mgr. Peter Li Hongye, 91, bishop of Luoyang (Henan) died of a heart attack on April 23 last, during the Easter Vigil, as he blessed the water before baptisms. He was approved by the Holy See, but not recognized by the government in Beijing. His faithful remember him for his fortitude in living his vocation and his suffering in the forced labour camps and the time spent under surveillance.

A priest from the diocese told AsiaNews that the funeral of Mgr. Li will next be held April 29 at the birthplace of the Prelate, Gong County, halfway between Zhengzhou and Luoyang.

Other sources tell AsiaNews that Mgr. Li knew Latin perfectly. During the 50s and 60s was sent to forced labour camps ("reform through labor") in Qinghai. Since the late 80's he has always lived under close surveillance or house arrest.

Bishop Li was in charge of the Religious sisters of the Diocese of Luoyang in the underground community and surrounding areas characterized by extreme poverty and lack of personnel, rendering even more heroic the work of Mgr. Li and his priests.

Bishop Li was born on January 6, 1920. From a deeply Catholic family from 1937-1943 he studied at the Seminary of Kaifeng. Ordained priest 22 April 1944, he became pastor at Yanshi.

From 1955 to 1970 he was arrested and sentenced to hard labour for his loyalty to the pope. The obituary prepared by his faithful describes this period as one of a "test of blood and fire."

On August 7, 1987, he was consecrated underground bishop of Luoyang, he continued his pastoral work in Yanshi and other areas in Henan.

Since 2004, he suffered from heart disease, has spent periods in hospital and was always ill.

The Diocese of Luoyang has about 10 thousand Catholics, 20 priests and 30 nuns. In 1929, Luoyang became a apostolic prefecture, separating it from the Vicariate of Zhengzhou. Administered by the Italian Xaverian missionaries, it became an apostolic vicariate in 1935 and a diocese in 1946.
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