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August 10 1998

After blood transfusions sustained his life for a year, Bishop Li Weidao of Changzhi (Lu´an), in the northwestern Chinese province of Shanxi, died of leukemia on July 21. He was 79.

After the illness was diagnosed, the bishop had to receive a transfusion every eight to 10 days, but the frequency had risen to every two days before he died, Bishop Silvester Li Jiantang of Taiyuan told UCA News on Aug. 3.

The late bishop was comatose and receiving a transfusion when Bishop Li Jiantang, whose diocese is also in Shanxi, visited him on the afternoon of July 21. The death announcement was made that night.

Bishop Li Weidao contracted stomach cancer a decade ago, and three-quarters of his stomach was removed at that time.

"His condition had worsened ever since the leukemia was discovered, so the diocesan priests had anointed him some time ago," the Taiyuan bishop related.

Bishop Joseph Sun Yuanmu of Hongtong presided at the funeral Mass, which was concelebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Li Hongguang of Xinjiang and more than 40 priests from various dioceses in Shanxi.

Bishop Li Weidao was born in 1919 and ordained priest in 1946. He was secretly ordained as bishop of Lu´an in 1982 by government-recognized Vatican-appointed Bishop Han Tingbi of Hongtong, who died in 1991.

He was not affiliated with the open Church then, but was officially installed as the government-recognized bishop of Changzhi in 1992.

Headquartered in the ancient city of Changzhi, the diocese of about 60,000 Catholics has produced many vocations. It has 37 major and minor seminarians, and 38 priests, including those who have been seconded to other dioceses.

For now it is being administered by three elderly priests -- Fathers Jin Daoyuan, Li Yi and Lu Junrong.