Msgr. Fan Zhongliang's funeral attended by 5,000 priests and faithful from the official and underground Churches
by Jian Mei
Msgr. Ma Daqin, who is under house arrest, was absent. In the liturgy the priests referred to him as "our Bishop Ma Daqin". During the celebration and prayers, Msgr Fan was also referred to as a "bishop", although the government prohibits the use of this term for a non recognized prelate. During the service, red vestments were used, "a sign of martyrdom". Hope for the unity of the Church in China is growing.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) - About 5,000 Catholics, including 70 priests from open and underground communities in Shanghai and other dioceses, gathered at a funeral parlor in Shanghai to celebrate the requiem Mass for Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, the ordinary of Shanghai who was not recognized by the Chinese government.

Father Zhu Yude from the underground community in Shanghai diocese, presided the requiem Mass. Father Zhu spoke about faith and servant, and asked Catholics to follow the example of Bishop Fan

The all-awaited Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was absent. Until last night, Catholics in Shanghai were hoping Bishop Ma could come, but he was closely watched, sources in Shanghai said.

The 70 priests concelebrated, and each wore a red stole. "Red symbolizes martyrdom," participating priests told AsiaNews. At the Eucharistic prayer, priests recited "our bishop Thaddeus".

In the funeral hall, on a banner, the term "bishop" was replaced with "shepherd", as the Chinese government always bars underground prelates from being called "bishop" at funerals. However, Bishop Fan was addressed as "bishop" orally throughout the liturgy.

A booklet was specially made for this requiem Mass. A total of 4,000 copies of the booklet was distributed, but insufficient.

Since Bishop Fan was not recognized by the Chinese government, his body was not allowed by the Chinese government to be buried inside St. Ignatius' Cathedral in Shanghai. Instead, Catholics bought a place in a cemetery in Sheshan area to bury his remains after cremation, sources said.

This morning, two hours before the liturgy, the courtyard in front of the funeral parlor was filled with thousands of Catholics. Police were directing traffic in the area.

A huge screen was set up in the courtyard to televise the situation inside the funeral parlor. Police put up barriers in the courtyard to confine Catholics to a certain area of the courtyard.

The Mass lasted for more than 2 hours. Then, Catholics, one by one, paid the last tribute to see the body of Bishop Fan.

At lunch time, participants were given bread and water before they attended the farewell session in the afternoon. Then, the body of Bishop Fan was taken to cremation.

An underground priest told AsiaNews that he was happy the liturgy went on smoothly with God's blessing. As priests from both sides reconciled and concelebrated at the funeral, he said, hoping that the Church in China will be united.