1991-08-29 00:00:00

A missing Catholic bishop, who is not recognized by the Chinese government, is back in his diocese after being held for 18 months.

Bishop Joseph Li Side of Tianjin, a vice president of the underground episcopal conference established in November 1989 in Shaanxi province, was released and returned to Tianjin diocese on June 7, mainland Catholics said.

Bishop Li was arrested Dec. 9, 1989, and reportedly jailed in a city prison. Often known as Father Li Side, Bishop Li now lives at Saint Joseph´s Church (Laoxikai Church) in Tianjin city, 112 kilometers southeast of Beijing.

Though his episcopal appointment in 1986 was denounced by the Chinese government, his priestly ordination has been approved and he is allowed to work as a priest in the government-sanctioned open Church.

In his 60s and in good health, he has been performing religious duties and presiding at Masses openly in churches since July 7, the Catholics said.

-- Meanwhile, China-appointed Bishop Joseph Li Depei of Tianjin, who had lived in Beijing city for a long time, died in a hospital on July 13 at the age of 90.

He was ordained a priest in 1925 and elected bishop in 1958, a year after the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) was set up. His episcopal ordination did not take place until August 1962.

Bishop Li Depei had been a vice president of the government-sanctioned organization, according to Anthony Liu Bainian, a CCPA standing committee member. Liu told UCA News Aug. 26 that it was unlikely that someone would be elected to replace him in the CCPA.

The bishop had retired from the association´s duties for sometime due to his old age, said Liu, also a vice president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Church Administrative Commission.

Visitors quoted mainland Catholics saying that the late bishop "had married during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and was unpopular among the faithful," which partly explained why he did not return to Tianjin diocese.

The news of the bishop´s death has not been carried in Tianjin Church notices so far and no requiem Mass has been openly held to avoid arousing the faithful´s discontent, the mainland Catholics claimed.

They believed that no episcopal election would take place to replace the late bishop as the faithful widely accepted Bishop Li Side as Tianjin´s bishop though his episcopal appointment was not recognized by Chinese authorities.

-- Tianjin diocese comprises about 10 clerics and 100,000 Catholics.


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