1992-01-03 00:00:00

Vatican-appointed Bishop Francis Han Tingbi of Hongtong, a diocese in northwestern China´s Shanxi province, died on Dec. 21.

The 83-year-old prelate, whose legitimacy as bishop was also recognized by the Chinese government, died of natural causes.

Sources who spoke to Catholics in Shanxi say his funeral was held Dec. 28 in Hongtong, about 200 kilometers southwest of Taiyuan, the provincial capital.

A Hong Kong-based China Church researcher, who asked not to be identified, commented that Sino-Vatican dialogue may be slightly affected by Bishop Han´s death because he was a Catholic Church leader accepted by "both sides."

With Bishop Han´s passing, China now has three recognized Vatican-appointed bishops, all named by Pope Pius XII: Bishops Matthias Duan Yinming of Wanxian, Franciscus Wang Xueming of Hohhot and Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding.

Bishops Duan and Wang are both members of the government-approved Chinese Catholic Bishops´ College.

An official of the Shanxi Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau told UCA News that as of Dec. 31 no date had been fixed for the succession ceremony of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sun Yuanmu to head Hongtong diocese.

An official, surnamed Chen, said the date will be decided by the two government-approved Shanxi provincial Catholic bodies: the Catholic Church Administrative Commission and the Catholic Patriotic Association.

Auxiliary Bishop Sun, 71, was ordained a bishop in February 1991 and is recognized by the Chinese government. Ordained a priest in 1948, he worked closely with Bishop Han since 1986 and is presently rector of the diocesan minor seminary and spiritual director of the convent.

-- Bishop Han was born into a Catholic family on Feb. 22, 1908, at Jiu village of Zhangzi county, Shanxi. His family was from Shandong province but settled down in Shanxi to escape the "Boxer" religious persecutions.

The Boxer Uprising (1899-1901), a people´s rebellion, broke out in Shandong to support the Qing Dynasty and to exterminate foreigners.

Bishop Han was ordained a priest in 1934, and his episcopal ordination took place a year after the Communist takeover of mainland China.

Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Hongtong in April 1950, and he was ordained a bishop on July 9 that same year.

Despite difficulties faced by the Catholic Church at the hands of Communist authorities, Bishop Han ordained 14 priests in Shanxi during the 1950s.

But when he refused in 1958 to ordain China-appointed bishops who did not have papal approval, he was placed under house arrest and sent to the Beiguanzhuang reform-through-labor farm in Hongtong county.

Bishop Han was released in 1979, after 21 years of "re-education," and went back to his cathedral in Hongtong. The church was reopened the next year, but Bishop Han refused to set up a Catholic Patriotic Association in his diocese.

During the past decade, Bishop Han suffered from stomach and heart diseases.

Hongtong was made an apostolic prefecture in 1932 and a diocese in 1950.


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