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'Underground' Xiwanzi bishop dies

Worked under government surveillance until hampered by illness

Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi (deceased) Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi (deceased)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Xiwanzi
  • China
  • March 10, 2011
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“Underground” Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi, northern Hebei province, died at Gonghui village church at the age of 95.

He died on March 9 shortly after receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, Church sources said. The police soon sealed off all roads leading to the village and Catholics from outside cannot pay their last tribute.

Funeral arrangements are unknown yet as all information is blocked, the sources continued, adding that a few priests who have obtained government recognition may preside over the funeral.

Bishop Hao, who was not recognized by the Chinese government, had been in poor health and was confined to a wheelchair for years.

Church sources said his health worsened last month, but police did not allow laypeople to send him to a hospital. They even installed surveillance cameras at his residence and forbade anyone to visit him.

“Bishop Hao died on Ash Wednesday. He had suffered hardships with Jesus Christ throughout his life and will resurrect with Him too,” one of the sources said.

Another described the prelate as “warm-hearted and loyal to his episcopate.” He had brought up a batch of young priests, who could do pastoral work independently.

Thus the sources believed regular Church activities would not be affected, though personnel arrangements and decisions on Church affairs would become difficult due to the vacant see as Auxiliary Bishop Leo Yao Liang had also passed away in 2009.

Bishop Hao was born into a Catholic family in 1916 - his two brothers were also priests - and ordained in 1943. He was sentenced to 10 years’ jail because of his faith in 1958. Then he was sent to Gonghui for reform-through-labor. Upon his release in 1981, he returned to serve as a parish priest.

He was clandestinely ordained as a bishop in 1984 and succeeded Bishop Melchior Zhang Kexing as the ordinary of Xiwanzi four years later. Since then he had worked under government surveillance until hampered by serious diabetes and deafness in the last decade.

Catholicism was introduced to Xiwanzi more than 300 years ago. In the 19th century, the village became the center of Mongolia's apostolic vicariate and the missionary base of the Congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary to the extensive region beyond the Great Wall.

The open Church merged Xiwanzi and neighboring Xuanhua diocese to form Zhangjiakou diocese in 1980, but the two underground communities continue to operate despite difficulties.
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