Updated: March 27, 2020 09:42 AM GMT
A file picture shows Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, who died on March 25, sitting with a Catholic nun. (Photo supplied)
Communist China's officials severely restricted the funeral of an elderly underground bishop, moving his burial to early morning and allowing only 18 people to attend it.Authorities allowed only 15 Catholics, a bishop and two priests to attend the burial of Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, China's oldest and only ethnic Mongolian bishop.The bishop, not recognized by the state, died on March 25 aged 100. He died of an age-related illness, said an official communication from Ningxia Diocese. Bishop Ma, who was ordained bishop of Ningxia in 1983, led the diocese in the northwest of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region until his retirement in 2005.He had been ailing for the past two years after he was diagnosed with pulmonary edema, Father John of Ningxia Diocese told UCA News.He was leading a retired life in Chengchuan but since last year had failed to recognize anyone, said the priest, who used to visit Bishop Ma.The government barred people from attending his funeral and burial on March 27 because of the restrictions in place against gatherings as a step to check the spread of coronavirus.Father John said the local religious bureau asked him not to attend the funeral because of the pandemic. He said the reason for barring people from the funeral might also be related "to the identity of Bishop Ma."Local Catholic sources told UCA News that the government interfered and moved the funeral from 8am to 5am."Authorities blocked the entire street and no priest could approach it. They also did not allow participants to bring mobile phones or take pictures," one source told UCA News.
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