Bishop Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou, the city of demolished crosses, has died
The coadjutor bishop, Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, has been kidnapped by the police to prevent him attending the funeral, as he is not recognized by the government. Three priests also kidnapped. The state authorities have banned the underground faithful from participating in the funeral. The late bishop had spent 16 years at hard labor and in jail.
Wenzhou (AsiaNews) - Msgr. Vincent Zhu Weifang, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) died this morning at the age of 90. He spent long periods in the forced labor camps (1955-1971) and in prison (1982-1988). He passed from the underground community to the official community in 2010 and was installed as bishop recognized by the government.
After the campaign launched by the Zhejiang government for the demolition of crosses and churches, the bishop launched a strong appeal to the authorities to stop the destruction and to the universal Church to pray for the Church in China.
Msgr. Zhu died of cancer, the funeral has been set for September 13 next. His body will be cremated and the ashes buried in the church cemetery.
He should be succeeded in the episcopacy by the coadjutor bishop, Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, who is not recognized by the government and who until now has been responsible for the underground community. From the canonical point of view Msgr. Shao is now the ordinary of Wenzhou, but many foresee many problems for him.
A source of the unofficial Church told AsiaNews that on August 23 Msgr. Shao, along with his secretary, were "kidnapped" by police and taken out of Zhejiang Province. According to a priest, the reason is clear: "The government does not want Bishop Shao to preside over the funeral of Msgr. Zhu. Since it was known that the 90 year-old bishop was sick, they acted ahead of time. In addition, they have already indicated a priest of the official community as head of the group of the official priests, perhaps because they want him to become bishop. But in that case it will be a cause of contention with the Vatican, which has already appointed Msgr. Shao as bishop with right of succession ".
Today, two other priests were "kidnapped" and taken away from Wenzhou and the province. The government also banned the priests of the underground Church from attending the funeral.
The diocese of Wenzhou has a history of strong division between the two Christian communities. It is estimated that there are about 100 thousand faithful in the Official communities and more than 50 thousand in the unofficial. There are about 70 priests equally distributed between the two branches.
Reconciliation is hampered by the personalities in the communities, but also by the government which tries to maintain its control over communities, dividing them as much as possible.
Despite this there have been a series of attempts towards reconciliation. Two priests (underground) of the diocese of Wenzhou, interviewed by AsiaNews, express their respect for the deceased bishop and describe Msgr. Zhu Weifang as a man of faith, committed to evangelization, attentive to mending relations between official and underground.
Msgr. Zhu entered the minor seminary in Ningbo at age 13 and then studied in Jiaxing and Fuzhou seminaries. In 1951 he went to study in Shanghai, in Xujiahui seminary. Ordained a priest on October 6, 1954, he was delegated to the pastoral work.
From 1955 to 1971 he was the victim of the Maoist campaigns against religious personnel and spent that time in a forced labor camp. He was arrested again in 1982 and remained in prison until 1988. Ordained bishop first secretly, in 2010 he became the official bishop of the diocese.