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Humble bishop who witnessed China change, dead at 90

Bishop Yu Chengxin was held in a labor camp because of his religious beliefs during the Cultural Revolution

ucanews.com, Hong Kong

ucanews.com, Hong Kong

Published: December 14, 2017 05:49 AM GMT

Updated: December 14, 2017 06:57 AM GMT

Humble bishop who witnessed China change, dead at 90

On Dec. 12, Bishop Yu Runshen presided at Bishop Yu Chengxin's funeral mass with 30 priests in Xiaozhao parish. Although a bishop, he simply referred to himself as a priest. (Photo supplied)

During his 90 years of life, Yu Chengxin witnessed monumental events that shaped mainland China in the 20th Century.

That included being held in a labor camp because of his religious beliefs during the so-called Cultural Revolution, which traumatized the nation between 1966 and 1976.

He refused to join the pro-Communist government Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

The mark of the man was his humility, not least a latter life preference for being referred to as a priest, even though he became Bishop Matthias Yu Chengxin of Hanzhong Diocese in northern Shaanxi Province.

He died as the result of a stroke on Dec. 7.

Notably, many wreathes at a memorial service Dec. 12 in Xiaozhao Catholic Church were labeled "Priest Matthias."

Bishop Yu Chengxin was born in 1927 into a Catholic family and baptized during his early childhood.

He entered a diocesan minor seminary in 1950 and six years later studied theology and philosophy at the major seminary in Kaifeng of central Henan province.

After being detained during the Cultural Revolution, he was ordained as a priest of the "underground community" in 1981.

His brother Yu Chengti also became a Bishop while his sister Yu Yongjie became a nun.

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A Catholic mourner at the memorial service told ucanews.com that Bishop Yu Chengxin enthusiastically attended church outdoor activities even when he was in a wheelchair.

After suffering his first stroke, he stayed in the home of a member of the laity and the diocese paid his expenses.

In November 1989, the China underground Catholic Bishops Conference held a secret meeting.

This was followed by massive government suppression in which Bishop Yu Chengxin’s brother, Bishop Yu Chengti, and others were arrested.

Admirers of the late Bishop Yu Chengxin are considering what to inscribe on his gravestone given political sensitivities.

They noted that several years ago government officials took away the gravestone of the late Bishop Yu Chengti.

 

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