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Catholics hold memorial for 'hero' Chinese priest

Cardinal Zen says Father Wei Heping would not commit suicide and calls for him to be made a saint

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Published: November 16, 2018 09:51 AM GMT

Updated: November 19, 2018 03:41 AM GMT

Catholics hold memorial for 'hero' Chinese priest

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun concelebrates a memorial service for Father Wei Heping at St. Bonaventure Church in Hong Kong with Franciscan Father Stephen Chan Moon-hung (right) and Italian Father Franco Mella (left) on Nov. 15. (ucanews.com photo)

A memorial service has been held for a Chinese underground priest who died mysteriously three years ago.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun led the service for Father Wei Heping at St. Bonaventure Church in Tsz Wan Shan, Kowloon, Hong Kong, on Nov. 15.

The body of 41-year-old Father Wei of Ningxia Diocese was found in a river in Taiyuan in Shanxi province, northern China, in November 2015. Police claimed he committed suicide but his family did not believe the police's explanation because a large area of Father Wei's brain suffered internal bleeding.

The cardinal said he did not believe Father Wei would commit suicide and hoped that one day the church would make him a saint. 

Before a Mass for 100 people began, a six-minute film was broadcast about the priest's life, referring to his enthusiasm for preaching, nurturing young people, teaching and caring for disadvantaged groups, especially those in poor areas.

The film's background music named "Peace" had lyrics describing Father Wei as being unafraid of power and exhibiting truth, generosity and humility while "shining the light of peace."

In his homily, Cardinal Zen said Father Wei "led many people to be priests, became integrated with church members and went to very poor places to be with the most loyal people of God; and those people are the most simple as the seeds enter their heart immediately blooming and bearing fruit."

"People who know him will never believe he would commit suicide because a hero will not commit suicide," said the emeritus bishop.

Church members prayed for Father Wei and his family along with oppressed Chinese clergy, including missing Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding in Hebei province; Bishop Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou of Zhejiang province; Bishop Cui Tai, Father Su Guipeng and Father Zhao He of Xuanhua of Hebei; and Father Liu Honggen of Baoding.

They also prayed for Chinese believers, hoping that they would still be able to persist in their faith and pass the darkness in the face of religious suppression.

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Catholic Charles Tsang told ucanews.com that as Chinese authorities had not given a proper account of Father Wei's death or ended its persecution of clergy and the church, "we can hardly believe that the Chinese government will treat the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution in good faith."

Catholic Maria Lee told ucanews.com that Father Wei's death reminded her of the human rights activists, lawyers and civilians who have died or been detained without reason. "It is a terrible thing," she said.

She said she was saddened that the Holy See had not asked the Chinese government to investigate the truth of Father Wei's death.

"This kind of silence is also a kind of help that helps the wicked perpetuate wicked deeds. How can the Chinese government respect our beliefs? I hope they will act to show us they defend the values of faith and freedom of religion," Lee said.

Cardinal Zen said the universal church recently held a bishops' synod to discuss youth issues.

"But some people think that young people are not qualified to listen to the truth because people under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter the church in China," he said.

"They also want [underground] priests to sign a paper to participate in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. But the association is a government tool to suppress the church. How can we sign?"

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