His successor described him as "a living monument of the Church in China." Many considered Archbishop Li Duan to be the "in pectore" cardinal chosen by John Paul II. Police blocked various streets to limit the access of Catholics from other dioceses.
Gongyi (AsiaNews) An enormous crowd of over 20,000 people took part in the procession and funeral of the Archbishop of Xian, Monsignor Anthony Li Duan, who died last Thursday, May 25. His successor, Monsignor Anthony Dang Mingyan, presided the rite and described the deceased bishop as "a living monument of the Church in China." Archbishop Li Duan, ordained in 1987, was one of the four bishops invited by Benedict XVI to the Synod of the Eucharist in October 2005, none of whom received government permission to go to Rome. Considered by many to be the in pectore cardinal chosen by John Paul II, Archbishop Li was very well-known and highly regarded for his efforts in weaving reconciliatory relations between the official and underground Church and between the official Church and the Holy See.
Archbishop Li Duan's remains were transferred Sunday 28 to the Gongyi parish church, where he had worked as pastor from 1980, after having been freed from a lager. His funeral was one of the most solemn to have ever taken place in China. At 7 o'clock this morning, more than 20,000 people accompanied the coffin of the Archbishop of Xian from the Gongyi parish to all parishes in the area and around the town, covering a distance of some 6 kilometres in two hours. At 9 a.m., Archbishop Li's successor, Monsignor Dang Mingyan, presided a solemn Mass, which was held outdoors. Seven bishops from the province of Shaanxi co-celebrated: Msgr Li Jiantang of Taiyuan, Msgr Huo Cheng of Fenyang, Msgr Zong Huaide of Sanyuan, Msgr Tong Changping of Weinan, Msgr Ye Ronghua of Ankang, Msgr Tong Hui of Yanan. Bishop Han Jide of Pingliang (Gansu) was also present.
Among the tens of thousands of faithful most of whom were dressed in white, the colour of mourning in China were also more than 500 nuns and at least 200 priests from Shaanxi as well as other provinces of China. The government tried however to limit the presence of priests and faithful from other dioceses, and even blocked roads leading to Gongyi.
Looking at all the faithful gathered around the deceased bishop's coffin, Monsignor Dang exclaimed: "Archbishop Li Duan made a great contribution to the Church of Shaanxi. He is a living monument of the Church in China."
After Mass, bishops, priests, nuns and various relatives accompanied the coffin to the church of Gongyi, where it was buried.
Yesterday, in the same church, more than 2,000 people had taken part in a prayer vigil.
Yesterday and today, security was ensured by a large number of policemen, some dressed in uniform, others in plain clothes, who calmly keeping an eye on the ceremonies from a distance.
Pictures of Archbishop Li Duan's funeral are available on the web-site of the Xian diocese: