Handan bishop emeritus Yang Xiangtai hospitalised: faithful praying for his recovery

The appeal was launched on Weixin, which was later blocked by censorship. Bishop Yang, 99, has difficulty breathing and his body is swollen. He is not an “underground” bishop, but has never submitted to the religious authorities linked to the Chinese Communist Party. He supported the protests against cross removals in Zhejiang and had run-ins with the police in Hebei.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Chinese Catholics are calling for prayers for Mgr Stephen Yang Xiangtai, Bishop Emeritus of Handan (Hebei), who is in very poor health.

The appeal appeared on the Weixin (Chinese version of WeChat) before it was blocked by government censorship.

Bishop Yang, 99, has been in hospital for a while. In recent days, he hasn't eaten much, and is currently breathing with difficulty and his body is swollen.

“Please, pray for the bishop and ask the Lord to give him the strength to face illness and suffering. Pray for the bishop to recover soon!” the Weixin post read.

Bishop Yang suffered a heart attack in June 2011 when he heard about the abduction of his successor, Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Sun Jigen.

The police seized Mgr Sun three days before his ordination, even though it was approved by both the Holy See and the Chinese government. His “official” recognition came only in November 2017.

Hebei province is home to China’s largest Catholic population, around one million, with strong underground communities. Handan is a very active diocese – in 2018 it had at least 180,000 members.

Mgr Yang is not an “underground” bishop, but he never readily submitted to the “patriotism” of the religious authorities linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2015, he supported the courageous protests by the clergy in Wenzhou against the demolition of crosses in Zhejiang province.

After the theft of three tabernacles and the desecration of the Eucharist in the church of the village of Xiao Di Ba, in June 2016, he launched a novena of prayer and a day of fasting as a act of reparation.

The police intervened forcing the bishop to cancel public gatherings, a ban that forced the faithful to pray and do penance at home.

The blocking of the post on Weixin shows once again that the agreement between the Vatican and China on episcopal appointments has not loosened the Party’s iron grip on the activities of religious personnel.

After the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement in October 2020, four episcopal appointments took place in China; overall, six “jointly agreed” ordinations have occurred since the signing of the agreement in 2018.