05/07/2020, 15.06
CHINA – VATICAN
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Mgr Joseph Zhu Baoyu, bishop emeritus of Nanyang, has passed away

by Peter Zhao

He contracted COVID-19 in February but had recovered. For a long time, he worked in the underground Church. In 2011 he was recognised by the government, but spent many years in prison as well as forced labour and re-education camps.

Nanyang (AsiaNews) – Bishop Emeritus Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang (Henan) died today at the age of 99. Three months ago, in February, he fell ill with COVID-19, but had managed to recover, becoming the oldest Chinese person to get over the disease. His recovery had become a case in China and the People's Daily had dedicated an article and video to him.

As bishop emeritus, he was living at the Bishop’s residence in Nanyang, together with Bishop Peter Jin Lugang. For the Chinese government, however, Mgr Zhu was the ordinary bishop and Mgr Jin was only the coadjutor even though the Holy See had accepted Mgr Zhu’s resignation for reasons of age in 2010.

There is not much information about him. The Diocese of Nanyang has released few details. Mgr Zhu Baoyu hailed from Pushan, Henan, where he was born on 2 July 1921. He lost his father when he was six, and was taken in with his mother by Jingang orphanage. He was baptised at the age of eight. He attended to the Ximan elementary school.

In 1946 he began studying theology at the seminary in Kaifeng (Henan) and was ordained into the priesthood in 1957 by Bishop Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding. In 1964, due to his faith, he was sent to a forced labour camp. In 1967 he started his service in Pushan parish. In 1981 he was sentenced to ten years in prison and re-education on charges of counter-revolutionary activity.

Between 1988 and 1992 he served in various parishes, and on 19 March 1995, on the occasion of the feast of Saint Joseph, his patron saint, he was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Nanyang. The consecration ceremony was led by Bishop Jin Dechen. The concelebrants were Mgr Zhang Huaixin and Mgr Shi Jingxian.

On 23 November 2002 he became ordinary bishop of Nanyang. Throughout this period, he was a member of the underground community.  

He resigned in 2010, with Vatican approval, and was replaced as ordinary bishop by Mgr Jin Lugang. However, right after his resignation, Mgr Zhu asked to be officially recognised; others say he was pressured.

Eventually, the government installed him as an ordinary bishop, disregarding the resignation he had offered to the Vatican. Some sources say that Mgr Zhu's move was meant to strengthen his hand against the government in order to get the return of Church property seized during the Cultural Revolution. Beijing recognised Mgr Jin Lugang as the coadjutor bishop only a year ago.

Once entrusted to the PIME missionaries, the Diocese of Nanyang today has about 20,000 members with about twenty priests and hundreds of nuns from the congregation of Saint Joseph.

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