Rome (AsiaNews) - Mgr Bartholomew Yu, unofficial bishop of the Diocese of Hanzhong (Shaanxi) died yesterday at 9.30 am, at the age of 90 years, after a long illness. Bishop Yu was one of the witnesses of the freedom of the Church, resisting the power of the Patriotic Association, which wants to build a Church independent of Rome. For this he suffered periods of imprisonment and house arrest.
Mgr Bartholomew Yu chengt was one of the last Chinese priests ordained by a foreign bishop, Msgr. Giuseppe Maggi, PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), before all foreign missionaries were expelled in the 50s when Mao Zedong came to power.
PIME had received the mandate to evangelize southern Shaanxi in 1888. Hanzhong became an Apostolic Vicariate in 1924 and then a diocese in 1944.
Bishop Bartholomew Yu was ordained bishop of the underground Church in 1981, following the ordination of the official Bishop LouisYu Runshen. The area of Hanzhong has a long tradition of radical communism and the Patriotic Association has always lorded over the life and activities of the Church trying to suffocate it slowly.
Mgr Bartholomew Yu was a witness of fidelity to the Pope, reviving the Christian communities around him. From the place where he lived, Gulupa (Chenggu), he helped give birth to numerous vocations to the underground priesthood as well as many unofficial female religious vocations, distributing their evangelising presence throughout the territory, especially in poor neighbourhoods and rural areas.
An important fact is that even the priests of the official Church, seeing that the patriotic Bishop Louis Yu did not dare to seek reconciliation with the Pope went to him for guidance and help in their vocation to live in obedience to the Church. Meanwhile, Mgr. Bartholomew Yu built a growing unity between the official Church and the underground Church through his friendship with the late Msgr. Anthony Li Duan, of Xian.
A turning point in the life of the Diocese of Hanzhong occurred just before the death of John Paul II, when Mgr. Louis Yu asked to be reconciled with the pope. A funeral mass for the late Polish pope was also a ceremony of reconciliation between the two bishops who celebrated the Eucharist together for the first time in decades.
Recently Mgr. Bartholomew Yu had become ill and was hospitalized several times. The isolation for his illness was not new to him, given that he had known long periods of isolation forced on him by police who kept him under house arrest.