1997-06-30 00:00:00

Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide of Jinan and Zhoucun, top leader of the government-sanctioned Catholic Church in China, died of a heart attack on June 27. He was 80.

News of his death in Beijing was quickly circulated to dioceses in mainland China, but Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), told UCA News on June 29 that the date of the prelate´s funeral was pending a decision by the bishops´ conference.

According to Chinese Church sources, the funeral would likely not take place until after the July 1 reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

Liu said that Bishop Zong was rushed to a hospital when he complained of heart pains after Mass on June 27, but died in the hospital later that day. Father Chu Hanyu administered the last rites to him, Liu added.

Liu also said the bishop had been cured of lung cancer more than a year ago.

Bishop Zong had been chairman of the CCPA since 1980, as well as president of the Bishops´ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) since 1992.

He became acting head of the bishops´ conference in the late 1980s after the death of his predecessor, Bishop Zhang Jiashu of Shanghai.

Bishop Zong was also rector of the national Catholic seminary in Beijing and a member of the Chinese People´s Political Consultative Conference.

Born in 1917 in Shandong province, he was ordained a priest in 1943 and served as vicar of Zhoucun diocese in Shandong from 1949-58.

In June 1958, he was ordained bishop of Zhoucun, one of the first Chinese bishops ordained without papal approval.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the bishop was sent to a reform-through-labor farm as Church activities in China came to a near total halt.

Bishop James Lin Bingliang of Guangzhou, who was ordained a bishop by Bishop Zong, told UCA News on June 29 that Bishop Zong had been working too hard in recent months preparing for Hong Kong´s return to China and for a national Catholic conference scheduled to take place this coming winter.

Carl Lu Guocun, secretary general of the Catholic Church Administrative Commission in Guangdong province, said that in dispatching news of the bishop´s death to dioceses and parishes on June 27 afternoon, the BCCCC and CCAC urged Catholics to offer requiem Masses and to pray for the late bishop.

Guangzhou cathedral celebrated Mass for Bishop Zong the following day.

Lu described the bishop as kind, self-sacrificing and hard-working, and spoke of his passing as a great loss to the Chinese Church. However, he added, his death will not affect the Church since it has a collective leadership.

Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong told UCA News that he was upset by the news since Bishop Zong seemed to be in good health May 21-22 when he and two other Hong Kong Church leaders, Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and vicar general Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, met Bishop Zong in Beijing.

Bishop Tong said that though he did not know Bishop Zong well, he had found the bishop to be a kind and fervent leader who emphasized spirituality.

Bishop Tong also said he prayed the Lord would give Bishop Zong peace.


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