Bishop Ye Ronghua, who rebuilt the Church in Ankang, dies at the age of 91
Originally from Hanzhong, he was educated at PIME seminaries in Shaanxi and Henan but was able to become a priest only after the Cultural Revolution. The great Archbishop of Xian, Mgr Li Duan, sent him to what was then the Apostolic Prefecture of Hinganfu, a very poor area, and ordained him bishop in 2000. Ill for several years, Bishop Ye was joined by Coadjutor Bishop Wang Xiaoxun in 2016 with the approval of the Holy See.
Ankang (AsiaNews) – Bishop John Baptist Ye Ronghua of Ankang (Shaanxi) died yesterday at the age of 91. He was the first Chinese bishop in what was once the Apostolic Prefecture of Hinganfu, erected as the Diocese of Hanzhong in 1928, and managed by Italian Friars Minor Conventual until the expulsion of foreign missionaries.
Bishop Ye was born on 20 June 1931 into a Catholic family in Shankou, a village near Hanzhong, one of the dioceses where PIME missionaries carried out their ministry in China. It was here in 1900 that the martyrdom of Saint Alberico Criscitelli took place.
In September 1945, a very young Ye Ronghua entered the St Joseph minor seminary in Hanzhong, transferring later to the regional seminary in Kaifeng (Henan). Both schools were founded and run by PIME missionaries.
In Shaanxi, priestly training came to an abrupt end when Mao and his revolutionaries seized power. As a result, the future prelate had to put a stop to his studies in 1958 and return to Hanzhong before he could be ordained.
Fast forward to 1966 and the Cultural Revolution, and Ye Ronghua found himself labelled a “counter-revolutionary" and condemned to re-education through forced labour. Only after a long period of harsh persecution was he ordained on 10 December 1981.
In 1987 then Bishop Anthony Li Duan of Xian, one of the greatest figures in the history of the Church in modern China, sent him to Ankang, in the former Apostolic Prefecture of Hinganfu, tasked with rebuilding the small Catholic community in this very poor area of Shaanxi.
On 10 December 2000, Bishop Li Duan consecrated Ye Ronghua as the “official” bishop of Ankang, soon also recognised by the Holy See. Those who had the opportunity to meet him say that the prelate still clearly remembered the names of the PIME missionaries who had taught him in the seminaries.
Struck by illness, he asked for and obtained a coadjutor bishop, Mgr John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun, originally from the Diocese of Xian, now 56 years old. The latter’s ordination took place on 30 November 2016 with the participation of six bishops from Shaanxi dioceses, all in communion with the pope and recognised by the government.
On that occasion, the pope's mandate for the new coadjutor bishop was read "in private" in a meeting with all the priests, before the ordination Mass. Now, Mgr Wang Xiaoxung will take Bishop Ye Ronghua’s place at the helm of the Diocese of Ankang.