ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: October 28, 2016 10:01 AM GMT
Parishioners have decorated the church in preparation for the funeral of retired Bishop Francis Tong Hui of Yan'an (Yulin). (Photo supplied)
A retired bishop in China's northwestern Shaanxi province died in hospital on Oct. 27, making him the sixth bishop in the country to pass away this year.
Retired Bishop Francis Tong Hui of Yan'an (Yulin) died from lung infection complications in Tangdu Hospital on Oct. 27. He was 83.
The bishop retired a year after his successor Father John Baptist Yang Xiaoting was ordained as coadjutor bishop of the diocese in 2010.
Bishop Yang, 52, told ucanews.com that a committee for the funeral arrangements has just been formed.
"Everything has to be discussed. The possible day for the funeral, I guess, will be on Nov. 2, All Souls Day," said Bishop Yang.
Recognized by both the Vatican and the Chinese government, Bishop Tong was the sixth bishop in the China church to have died this year. The other five were Bishops Thomas Zhang Huaixin of Anyang, Thomas Zeng Jingmu of Yujiang, Vincent Huang Shoucheng of Mindong, Vincent Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou and Anthony Xu Jiwei of Taizhou.
Bishop Tong developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and could not manage himself or celebrate Mass since 2009.
Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher of the Hong Kong Diocese's Holy Spirit Study Centre, said Bishop Tong was a low-profile bishop. "But the priests of Yan'an that I approached, they all have good comments to make about their bishop," said Lam.
Yan'an now has one bishop, 33 priests to serve 65,000 Catholics scattered over an area of 80,000 square kilometers.
The area in central China was once an important communist revolutionary base, and just before the cathedral finished construction, it was confiscated and turned into a museum dedicated to the history of the communist revolution.
Bishop Tong was born on Aug. 15, 1933 and was ordained a priest in 1956. He was arrested and imprisoned by the communist regime in 1965. He was released 15 years later in 1980.
He was ordained as the coadjutor bishop of Yulin (now renamed as Yan'an) in 1994 and succeeded Bishop Wang Zhenye to become the bishop of the diocese five years later.