07/12/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Ningxia Catholics : Death of priest and nun leads us to unity and reconciliation

by Zhen Yuan
The priest who presided at the funeral calls on Catholics to forgive the murderer and pray for him. The official bishop of Bameng does not participate in the funeral, but brings a floral tribute and offers condolences to the underground community. The church and hospice where the two victims worked in danger of being demolished.

Wuhai (AsiaNews) - The underground community of Ningxia, deeply affected by the killing of a priest and nun a few days ago, is marked by sadness and prayer. At the funeral held on July 10, the community affirmed that their death “has brought cohesion and unity among Catholics and given us the opportunity to meet with the clergy of the official church".

55 year-old Fr. Joseph Shulai Zhang, and 32 year-old Sr. Mary Wei Yanhui were killed July 6 by Zhang Weiping, a former seminarian. The scene of the crime was the Aixin (love) hospice for the elderly in the city of Qiaoxi (Wuda, District of Wuhai, Inner Mongolia).  Xinhua reports that 43 year-old Zhang Weiping was arrested on 8 July.

The funerals of two victims were held together at the church near the hospice.  The memorial mass was attended by more than 1,000 Catholics, along with victims' relatives and 60 guests of the nursing home for the elderly.  Fr. Wang Zeyi, who presided over the celebration, has asked all Catholics to forgive and pray for the murderer.

Fr. Zhang and Sr. Wei were buried in the Catholic cemetery, about 50 km from Wuda.  The faithful accompanied the coffins to the cemetery in over 120 vehicles. The ceremony took place in an orderly and solemn fashion out of respect for the two deceased with prayers for the “resurrection and the repose of their souls. "

The official bishop of Bameng (Inner Mongolia), Mgr. Matthias Du Jiang did not participate in the funeral, but along with three priests he went to the Wuda church before the funeral to offer flowers to the deceased and condolences to the community.

Fr Heping of Ningxia, told AsiaNews that the tragic incident has strengthened unity between Catholics and 10 priests of the underground community and was an important opportunity to bring together the two communities , official and underground, to meet each other in the open.  "Catholics of Ningxia - he continued - are determined to carry on the work of Fr Zhang and Sr. Wei, in the church and hospice. Fr. Wang will be the successor of the late Father Zhang as pastor and as director of the nursing home. "

"Fr. Zhang will be remembered as an honest person, who dedicated his life to the formation of vocations", said Fr Heping, who had Fr. Zhang as a teacher. "Even Sr. Wei - he added - was very dedicated to serving the elderly and collaborated with Fr. Zhang in his pastoral work".

Despite the murder, all the elderly guests of the home are determined to stay in the hospice, where they greatly appreciate the care given them by the Catholic community. But the Church is concerned that the local church and home will be demolished and the elderly transferred elsewhere.  

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