06/18/2011, 00.00
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Father Li Zhigang, appointed bishop of Chengdu, dies of cancer

by Jian Mei
He was elected May 2011. So far he had not recieved papal mandate. He died surrounded by his priests and in prayer. He was very involved in the rebuilding of the buildings of the diocese, which was hit by the earthquake of 2008.
Chengdu (AsiaNews) - Fr Simon Li Zhigang, who was appointed bishop of Chengdu (Sichuan) a month ago, died today of liver cancer at 9:48 (local time), at the age of 48 years. The date of the funeral has not yet been set.

This year they had celebrated the 20th anniversary of Father Li’s priesthood and 10th as an administrator of the diocese of Chengdu. He was elected May 10, 2011 by an assembly composed of 23 priests, 17 lay people, four sisters and a seminarian. He received 41 votes of the 45 votes, with three abstentions and one against. Until now he had not received the mandate of the Holy See.

Church sources told AsiaNews that Father Li was hospitalized in recent days, and most of the priests from the diocese gathered at his sick bed yesterday (June 17) and prayed for him, during which Father Li received the Last Sacrament. “Apparently Father Li was peaceful and happy with the prayer gathering of the priests, despite he suffered physical pains,” a priest said.

Other Church sources also said Father Li’s episcopal ordination was scheduled to be in late 2011, after other bishop ordinations of Sichuan. The dioceses of Leshan, Xichang, Nanchong and Yibin (all in Sichuan) are ready with bishop candidates. So far, Father Li and two of the Sichuan candidates had no mandate from Holy See.

Born in October 1963 in Mianyang of Chengdu diocese, Father Li studied at the Sichuan Regional Seminary in 1984-1987. He was ordained a priest in April 1991. He had been an assistant parish pastor of the cathedral parish. In 1996-2000 He had served as vice-rector and rector at the Sichuan seminary. Since December 2000, he had been administrator of the diocese. Since 2006, he had been the chairperson of Chengdu city patriotic association.

Chengdu diocese has 23 priests, 13 nuns, and nearly 100,000 Catholics. In 2008, Sichuan province was hard-hit by earthquake. Many places of Chengdu diocese have been devastated. Father Li was involved in the reconstruction work.
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