1995-02-16 00:00:00

China-appointed Bishop Michael Yang Gaojian of Changde, 81, a key figure of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) since the 1950s, died Jan. 20 in Beijing.

A former superior of the Augustinians in China, he fell ill after New Year´s Day and died at a hospital during heart resuscitation. His body was cremated after his funeral Jan. 26. Some of his remains were placed in Beijing diocese.

An obituary by the CCPA said Bishop Yang received the last Sacrament.

The late Bishop Yang was among the first Chinese bishops elected and ordained without papal approval in 1958, to head Changde diocese in Hunan province, central China, some 1,310 kilometers southwest of Beijing.

The obituary said he held key positions in the Changde CCPA since 1953.

In 1956, he attended the founding meeting of the CCPA, a national body to manage provincial, city and local CCPAs. A year later, the CCPA was formally established, and he was elected deputy secretary general.

In 1958, he was elected bishop of Changde and ordained in October that year.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he was sent to be reeducated through hard labor. In 1980, a year after the religious policy was restored, he moved from Changde to Beijing to work at CCPA headquarters.

He had leading roles in the three government-sanctioned Catholic organizations: the CCPA, Chinese Catholic Church Administrative Commission (CCCAC) and Chinese Catholic Bishops´ College (CCBC).

Since 1992, the commission has been under the bishops´ college, renamed in English the Bishops´ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

Bishop Yang was a vice president of the CCPA, deputy secretary general of the CCCAC and a vice president and secretary general of the CCBC.

He wrote for the official magazine "Catholic Church in China" during the 1980s on restoration of the Church in China.

He was also allegedly one of the Chinese bishops who married. Anthony Liu Bainian, a CCPA official, explained that the difficult time of the Cultural Revolution led to the bishop´s "pseudo marriage."

Bishop Yang was appointed CCPA adviser during the fifth national congress of Catholic representatives in 1992, a position he held until his death. Liu said he is unlikely to be replaced until the next congress convenes.

The obituary described Bishop Yang as "an outstanding leader" in the Chinese Catholic anti-imperialist and patriotic movement, supporting the Communist leadership as early as the founding of the People´s Republic of China in 1949.

For more than 40 years, Bishop Yang maintained the principles of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Catholic Church, and experienced the changes and challenges faced by the Church, it noted.

Born Sept. 28, 1913, in Lianfeng county, Hunan province, Yang entered the Changde diocesan minor seminary. In 1931 he joined the Order of St. Augustine and continued studies at the major seminary in Hunan and Hubei.

In 1938, he was ordained a priest in Changde diocese and became deputy rector of its minor seminary, principal of Church schools and a parish pastor and dean of parishes.

In 1950, he was appointed administrator of Yuanling diocese and Augustinian superior in China. In 1951, he became administrator of Changde diocese, which now has about 1,000 churchgoers and a few priests.


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