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Chinese bishop receives 'honorable' funeral

The death of Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua 'signifies end of first era of 51 bishops ordained without papal approval'

Chinese bishop receives 'honorable' funeral

Bishop Ma Yinglin of Kunming,  third from left, head of the government-sanctioned bishops’ conference, administered the last rites of Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Puqi at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery on Jan 10. (Photo supplied)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
China

January 11, 2017

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The outspoken supporter of the Chinese Communist Party and 98-year-old patriotic Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Puqi was buried at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery on Jan 10.

The Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing is the main resting place for the highest-ranking revolutionary heroes, government officials, and individuals deemed important due to their significant contributions to society.

Bishop Tu Shihua was ordained a bishop in 1959, but despite the blessing of the Communist Party’s Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association spent decades away from his diocese. He was appointed by Beijing without papal recognition.

It was widely known in Catholic circles that Pope Francis was keen to pardon him and seven other bishops on the occasion of the Year of Mercy that ended on Nov. 20, 2016. Bishop Tu Shihua died on Jan. 4.

About 300 people, including family members, senior religious affairs officials from Beijing and church leaders from the government sanctioned Bishop’s Conference and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, attended the service.

Liu Yandong, vice premier of the State Council, and Sun Chunlan, head of the United Front Work Department, which liaises with religious groups, sent wreaths for the bishop, who was not recognized by the Vatican.

 

The funeral of Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Puqi was held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery on Jan 10. (Photo supplied)

 

"Holding the funeral here [Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery] shows Bishop Tu enjoyed a very high position in the eyes of the Communist Party. He was regarded as a close friend of the party, which means they were on the same page," Paul Chen, a Catholic commentator in China, told ucanews.com.

Since the bishop had long since retired, it was appropriate that the most senior party official present was Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Chen said.

The last top Catholic leader whose funeral took place at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery was Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan of Beijing in 2007.

Bishop Fu, who was also not recognized by the Vatican, was a vice chairperson of the National People's Congress, China's legislature, and held the rank of a state leader. It was as a state leader that he was buried in the cemetery.

 

The end of the first era of illicit bishops

The death of Bishop Tu signified the end of the first era of 51 bishops who were ordained without papal approval between 1958 and 1963, said Liu Yang, a researcher in Beijing.

A major confrontation erupted between China and the Vatican over the appointment of bishops in 1958, when Bishop Dong Guangqing of Hankou received episcopal ordination in 1958 after the Vatican twice refused to recognize his candidacy.

The Franciscan bishop incurred automatic excommunication according to church law but reconciled with the Vatican decades later.

However, Bishop Tu Shihua died before receiving recognition from the Holy See. He was one of eight illicit bishops Beijing wants the Vatican to recognize.

China has demanded the Vatican pardon and recognize them as part negotiations over the past year. "Since the legitimization of the eight illicit bishops is linked to an agreement with China, unfortunately, that agreement is not yet concluded or signed," said a source close to the Vatican, who asked not to be named.

"Therefore, the process for him formally was not concluded," he said.

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