1992-03-13 00:00:00

China-appointed Franciscan Bishop Paul Han Xirang of Qingdao, in northeastern Shandong province, died of liver cancer on the evening of March 6 at the age of 74.

Suffering from the illness during the last six months, Bishop Han received medical treatment in Qingdao and Shanghai hospitals, Anthony Liu Bainian, a layman of Qingdao diocese, told UCA News March 11 after he returned from the funeral.

Bishop Han received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and handed over diocesan matters to the priests, said Liu, vice president of the government-approved Chinese Catholic Church Administrative Commission based in Beijing. The nomination of a new bishop has not been discussed yet, he said.

Bishop Han´s death leaves Qingdao diocese with only three priests -- two of whom are over 80 -- to serve more than 3,000 Catholics, Liu said.

China-appointed Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ma Xuesheng of Zhoucun officiated at the requiem March 9 at Saint Michael´s Cathedral in Qingdao city, about 550 kilometers southeast of Beijing.

Bishop Han´s body was cremated the following day, and in accordance with his will, some ash was buried in the cathedral and the rest in his hometown of Han Village in Yucheng county, Shandong, Liu said.

China-appointed Auxiliary Bishop Zhao Ziping of Jinan, a Franciscan, also attended the Mass. The funeral congregation of clerics and faithful from other dioceses and Church communities in Shandong province was joined by government religious affairs officials at provincial and city levels.

Bishop Han was born into a Catholic family in Shandong on Aug. 1, 1918. He entered the Jinan minor seminary in the 1930s.

In 1944 he joined the Order of Friar Minors (Franciscans) and was sent to Hankou seminary in Hubei province, central China, for theological studies. He was ordained a priest in Hankou cathedral on April 11, 1949.

Six months later, the Chinese Communists took over mainland China. He returned to Jinan and was appointed rector of the Jinan minor seminary. Later he became a parish priest there as well.

In 1958, he was accused of committing counter-revolutionary activities for protesting against the Three-self Movement. He was jailed from 1958 until 1979.

The Three-self Movement, which began within the Chinese Christian Churches in the early 1950s, has three principles: self-financing, the Chinese Church would be financially self-supporting; self-management, the clergy of the Chinese Church would be native Chinese; and self-propagating, the Chinese Church would no longer need or accept help from foreign mission societies.

After his release, the Franciscan served Catholics in Qingdao city and became the parish priest of Saint Michael´s Cathedral when the church reopened in 1981.

In 1987, he was elected bishop of Qingdao. He was ordained together with four other Shandong bishop-designates on April 24, 1988, in Jinan by China-appointed Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide of Jinan and Zhoucun.

Bishop Zong, head of the three government-approved Catholic organs in China, did not attend the funeral because he had a political meeting in Beijing, Liu said.

Bishop Han was once invited to Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan by Archbishop Stanislaus Lokuang, then president of Fu Jen, to attend the university´s 60th anniversary celebration in December 1989.

He did not go, reportedly because of objections from the mainland Chinese government.

Erected as an apostolic prefecture in 1925, Qingdao diocese was elevated to an apostolic vicariate in 1928. It was entrusted to the Society of Divine Word for pastoral work. Before 1949, the Catholic population numbered about 20,000.


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