Beijing (AsiaNews / EDA) - The village of Gonghui (Hebei) has been cut off by the police to prevent large groups of Catholics who want to pay their last respects to the remains of an underground bishop.
Bishop Andrea Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi died March 9 at the age of 95. The diocese of Xiwanzi (Hebei) is a diocese of the underground Church, with 15 thousand faithful, about 260 km north of Beijing, near the border with Inner Mongolia.
The diocese has been without a pastor following the death of the coadjutor bishop over a year ago. Bishop Leo Yao Liang, coadjutor bishop died December 30, 2009 at hospital about a year after suffering almost three years in prison. He was 86. For his funeral, public security was deployed to curb the participation of the faithful. But that did not stop more than 5 thousand attending his funeral (01/07/2010 Thousands of Catholics defy snow, cold and police at the funeral of Mgr. Yao Liang).
For Msgr. Hao Jinli the same thing is happening. Since the day he died, all the roads leading to the village have been closed and the date of the funeral is still not known.
"Bishop Hou died on Ash Wednesday - said one of the faithful – He was united to Jesus Christ throughout his entire life, in the trials that he survived and now he will rise again in Him” . The bishop was very much loved by his community and has educated many priests of the underground Church. He spent 20 years in prison for his faith and decades under a suffocating control, always refusing to join the Patriotic Association, which aims to build a Church independent from the pope.
Bishop Hao was born in 1916 to a Catholic family, he and other two brothers became priests. Ordained a priest in 1943, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1958. On leaving the prison, he was sent to a camp in Gonghui to be "re-educated through labour." Released in 1981, he began parish activity.
In '84 he was ordained bishop of the underground Diocese of Chongli-Xiwanzi, succeeding Msgr. Melchior Zhang Kexing. Because of his illness in 2002, Fr Leo Yao Liang was ordained coadjutor bishop, but died in 2009.
The situation of the diocese of Xiwanzi bevame more complicated in the 80s when the Chinese government combined the two dioceses of Xiwanzi and Xuanhua to form the new diocese of Zhangjiakou, still unrecognized by the Vatican and without a bishop.
In recent years the Diocese of Xiwanzi tried to continue missionary work, but it has also suffered the arrests of priests and believers and the sequestering of churches.