China’s oldest Catholic bishop, John Baptist Liu Jingshan of Yinchuan (Ningxia), has died at the age of 100. He passed away on Monday at the cathedral in Yinchuan city, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northern China, where he spent much of his life after his retirement in 2009. His health had been declining in recent months, the diocese said. He and his successor, Bishop Joseph Li Jing, are recognized by both the Vatican and the Chinese government. The elderly prelate has been credited with restoring the Church community in Ningxia after arriving there in 1983, after suffering 30 years of imprisonment in a labor camp. Father Joseph Zhang Jianding, who knew Bishop Liu for 20 years, described him as kind and amiable, yet he set down strict demands on his priests and seminarians. “He never tolerated any fault in my priestly life and work. He often criticized and corrected me harshly, sometimes even lost his temper. But he forgave me afterwards as if nothing had happened.” Bishop Liu was born in 1913 in Bameng diocese, Inner Mongolia. He entered the minor seminary in 1929 and studied in two major seminaries from 1935 to 1942, while Japanese troops were occupying China. Upon becoming a priest in 1942, he served in a parish and then a minor seminary. In 1951, he was jailed and sentenced to a labor camp. In 1970, he was released and sent home to work as a farmer. He began teaching in a school and resumed pastoral work to restore the Church in 1979 after the Cultural Revolution ended and the government allowed religious activities to commence again. Four years later, the then 70-year-old priest was invited to Ningxia to direct Church affairs. At that time there were only two Catholic priests in the vast region where most people are Muslims. He traveled by bicycle to administer holy sacraments and pay home visits to people who had lost their faith. In 1993, the government-sanctioned “open” Church authority restructured Ningxia diocese according to its own administrative boundaries and the then Fr Liu was ordained a bishop at the age of 80. He ordained his Coadjutor Bishop Li in 2007 and retired two years later. Bishop Li told ucanews.com that retired Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, 95, from Ningxia’s “underground” Church community paid his respects and celebrated a requiem Mass on Tuesday for Bishop Liu. Ningxia diocese has about 15,000 Catholics, served by 12 priests and about 20 nuns, according to Bishop Li.
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Bishop Liu’s funeral service will be held at the Yinchuan cathedral on Friday, after which his body will be buried at Xuhezhuang Church in Helan County. Related reports Diocese honors China’s oldest bishop at 97 Catholics of Ningxia diocese overjoyed to have new coadjutor bishop