11/08/2016, 16.11
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Fr Yu Heping, a year after his death, “his love and sacrifice are still alive in the Church in China"

by Maria Yuan

His body was found in a river near Taiyuan (Shanxi). The cause of his death was unclear, even though an autopsy was performed on his body. An undergroud priest remembers Fr Yu's commitment to the poor, the underprivileged, seminars for priests, seminarians and nuns. He organised pilgrimages as spiritual journeys for young people.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Today, and in the past few days, many Catholics in and outside of China have remembered Fr Yu Heping, also known as Heping (peace in Chinese), on the first anniversary of his death.

On 8 November exactly a year ago, his family received news that his body was found that day. The priest's body was found in a river near the city of Taiyuan (Shanxi). Since then, the police maintained that the clergyman's death was a suspected suicide, but many Catholics do not believe this version. Meanwhile, Fr Yu’s body is still at a morgue, though an autopsy was done.

Fr Joseph is a priest in northern China. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that "Fr Yu will always be remembered for his contribution to the Chinese Catholic community, especially the underground Church."

"He promoted meetings and contacts between Church members and priests in the official and underground communities. He organised a series of study seminars, including one on the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in China. Catholics from all over the country came to discuss it.

“I enjoyed those seminars,” Fr Joseph said, because “I learnt a lot about various issues, and met many Catholics from the different regions of China. "

Fr Yu exerted great fascination on young people. Each year, he would organise an annual walking pilgrimage that could last days. Thanks to this, young people could understand the ancient tradition of the Church as a way to seek faith and spirituality.

“Although he is no longer with us, some young people, to this day, continue to undertake those initiatives as a way to remember him."

After studying abroad, Fr Yu returned to China about ten years ago, and taught courses in theology in underground communities. He offered lessons in Church theology and teaching to young people, as well as priests, nuns and seminarians, improving their level of knowledge.

Fr Yu also cared for the underprivileged and the poor in less developed areas. A documentary shows him working for "some forgotten Catholic communities” in Yunnan (southwestern China).

He helped them raise funds to build a prayer house as well as a teach children and women to read and write. He urged people to donate clothes, blankets, rice and other food for poor Catholics.

"His efforts,” said Fr Joseph, “were an example of what Jesus asked us to do, namely serve the least of our brothers and sisters.”

For instance, “He helped some women, former nuns, in their forties and fifties, who had left their religious congregation for various reasons, including illness.

“Many of them only had a primary education and could not easily find work. Some were sick, but eager to serve the Church and lead a spiritual life. Fr Yu organised retreats for them and provided spiritual counselling as well as material help."

To commemorate the first anniversary of Fr Yu’s death, some Catholics also posted a documentary on weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, showing his mission and service to the Church.

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