Unrecognised by the Chinese government, he was liked by both official and underground Catholics as a humble and capable pastor. Almost everyone in Diocese of Mindong belongs to the underground Church, 80,000 out of 90,000 members. The authorities would like to see a low profile funeral, with the body without Episcopal insignia. The faithful plan otherwise. Mgr Huang spent 35 years in prison, house arrest and forced labor. He ordained his successor, Mgr Vincent Guo Xijin, in 2008.
Mindong (AsiaNews) – Mgr Vincent Huang Shoucheng, underground bishop of Mindong (Fujian), died this morning at 11 am (local time). He was 93.
One of China's most significant personalities, he had been hospitalised on 15 May causing fear among the faithful, but recovered after a few days. The bishop, recognised by official and underground Catholics as ordinary bishop of the diocese, wanted to die at home, in the curia and he did.
In more than 60 years of priesthood, Mgr Huang spent 35 of them in prison, house arrest or forced labor.
The Diocese of Mindong is home to about 90,000 faithful. More than 80,000 belong to the underground Church, which has more than 45 priests, more than 200 nuns, more than 300 consecrated lay people, and hundreds of lay catechists.
Mindong also has a patriotic bishop, Mgr Zhan Silu, with some faithful, a dozen priests who belong to the official Church, and a few parishes.
Both underground and official Catholics recognise the late prelate’s greatness. Seminarians of the official Church remember him as a "humble and intelligent, a great pastor".
"Thanks to him, the Church of Mindong was able to grow and renew itself,” said one underground clergyman. “His suffering bore fruit for evangelisation. Over the years, hundreds of communities and parishes were created and developed."
Given the size of the underground community, the government over the years has had to come to terms with community life and activities such as church construction, pilgrimages, ordinations.
In 2008, Mgr Huang was able to ordain his coadjutor, Mgr Vincent Guo Xijin, 60, who succeeded him in the administration of the diocese. Mgr Guo was approved by Benedict XVI.
The date of the funeral has not yet been decided. Mindong Catholics told AsiaNews that government officials are already in town to speak with priests and the successor bishop to decide on what to do.
Usually for a bishop not recognised by the Chinese government, the authorities will require a simple funeral, the body without the episcopal insignia, and only a few faithful allowed to pay their respect.
It is very likely that in this case the authorities will not be able stop the flow of tens of thousands of people coming to pay their respect to their dead pastor.
They will not be able to prevent the liturgy from referring to him as a bishop, or placing the signs of his office – the miter, pectoral cross and ring – on the body.
For us, Mgr Huang is a bishop, and will shall dress his body as such,” a faithful told AsiaNews. “If the authorities want, they can come in person, before all the people, to remove his Episcopal insignia ".
On the other hand, it is widely known that the government asked Mgr Guo not to wear his Episcopal accoutrements and he has graciously accepted.
The faithful expect that even Mgr Zhan Silu will come to honour the body of Mgr Huang, who had been his teacher at the seminary.
Mgr Huang Shoucheng was born on 23 July 1923 in Kangcuo, near the city of Fuan (Fujian). In 1935 he entered the minor seminary in Luojiang (Funing), followed by the major seminary in Fuzhou.
On 26 June 1949, he was ordained priest along with three other deacons, from the hands of the apostolic administrator, Mgr Thomas Niu Huiqing.
After a period of teaching at the seminary and serving as a parish priest, he was arrested on 12 November 1955, along with three other priests by the police in Fuzhou, and spent the next four years in prison and forced labor camps.
He came home in 1971, but during the Cultural Revolution, he was arrested for a second time, on 23 December 1972, for writing some catechetical books. Sentenced to eight years in prison, he was released in January 1980 and returned to Fuan.
In 1985 he was consecrated coadjutor bishop of the city of Luoyuan and underwent police checks and house arrest, but this did not hold back his efforts.
On 27 July 1990, he was arrested and jailed for the third time, but in August of 1991, the sentence was suspended because of his health.
On 20 August 2005, he took over the diocese of Mindong. On 28 December 2008, he consecrated his successor Mgr Vincent Guo Xijin as coadjutor bishop.