Authorities drive hundreds of faithful from Bishop Yang Xiangtai's funeral in Handan (VIDEO)
Attendance limited to 800 people due to Covid-19. Widespread mourning among Chinese Catholics for a highly respected bishop. Bishop Yang often clashed with the government. Beloved also for his liturgical songs and poems.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - Authorities have prevented hundreds of faithful from attending the funeral of Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai, bishop emeritus of Handan (Hebei), who died at the age of 99 on October 13. As shown in footage obtained by AsiaNews, Msgr. Yang's passing caused widespread mourning among Chinese Catholics (see videos 1 and 2).
Under strict control of the authorities, the funeral ceremony was held last week in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Caozhuang. The Hebei government issued passes to only 800 people, officially as a preventive measure against Covid-19.
Bishop Yang was not an "underground" bishop, but on several occasions he challenged the "patriotic" line of the religious authorities linked to the Chinese Communist Party. Especially in 2015 he supported the courageous protests of the clergy of Wenzhou against the demolition of crosses in Zhejiang Province. Censors had blocked social media posts reporting his hospitalization and death.
Bishop Yang was highly respected. The current Bishop of Handan, Msgr. Joseph Sun Jigen, paid tribute to him in the eulogy, describing him as a "kind and gentle pastor, close to our hearts." Msgr. Sun emphasized that in the midst of difficulties and adversity, his predecessor "wrote a new chapter of service to his flock with his heart and soul."
The faithful of Handan Diocese remember Msgr. Yang for his life of integrity and faith, but also for the liturgical songs he composed. In one of the videos (see video 3), he is reciting a poem dedicated to Our Lady.
Bishop Yang's is a painful loss not only for the Church in China, but also for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), because he grew up, received his formation and worked together with the PIME fathers of Kaifeng and Weihui (now Anyang) in Henan.