UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News

China

TWO CHURCH LEADERS IN YUNNAN PROVINCE DIE, FEW SERVE TRIBAL CATHOLICS

Updated: July 11, 2000 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :
Two of the five elderly priests in China´s Yunnan province, all unaffiliated to the government-sanctioned "open" Church, died recently, and two others are too sick to carry out pastoral ministry.

Father Louis He Dezong, Vatican-appointed administrator of Kunming diocese since 1950, died June 30 at age 84.

Father He had been sick for months and resigned as administrator before he died, Father Lawrence Zhang Wenchang of Kunming, 80, told UCA News July 5.

Like Father Zhang, Father He was an ethnic Yi and practiced his ministry privately but maintained contacts and supported young priests in the three dioceses in Yunnan -- Dali, Kunming, Zhaotong -- none of which have bishops.

On July 2, Father Tang Minggui of Zhaotong offered a requiem Mass for Father He in a church in Kunming, the provincial capital about 2,120 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Father Zhang officiated the funeral at a local funeral parlor the next day. About 100 Catholics attended each liturgy.

Father He seldom said Mass publicly, except in villages for major feast days, said Father Zhang, who remains active in the diocese despite his age and is now the only elderly priest serving Catholics in the remote countryside.

The two other Kunming elderly priests, Fathers Wang Feiyun and Joseph Huang Ruoshi, are too ill to perform priestly tasks, Father Zhang explained. Most young priests in the open Church of Kunming are unwilling to travel to the mountainous parts of the diocese, he added.

Father He was born into a Catholic family in Lunan, near Kunming, in 1915. After attending the Kunming seminary, he was ordained a priest in 1942. He taught in minor seminaries in Lunan and Kunming before serving in parishes.

The priest was named Kunming administrator a year after the founding of the People´s Republic of China, when foreign missioners were expelled.

After the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Father He was forced to work in a coal mine for two years, and later transferred to a reform-through-labor farm. After his release in 1979, he returned to Kunming diocese.

Since the early 1980s he has been a librarian appointed by the local government. Father He devised a writing system for the Afxii, one of the 24 branches of the Yi, and published a book on Afxii grammar.

Another elderly Yunnan priest, Father Andrew Shi Guangrong of Dali diocese, died of lung disease on March 13 at age 80, reported the March issue of "Catholic Church in China," a national open Church quarterly.

Few Catholics attended his funeral because roads had been damaged by rains, Father Gregory Tao Zhibin of Dali told UCA News July 6.

Father Shi was too poor to see a doctor, and his medication was much delayed, said Father Tao, who appealed in 1999 for help for sick Church personnel in China.

The average income in Dali is less than 300 yuan (US$36) a month per person.

Father Shi entered the Kunming major seminary before 1949. He was jailed for his faith in the 1950s and released 22 years later in the late 1970s. He continued priesthood training in open Church seminaries and was ordained in 1987, after which he returned to Dali diocese.

Until Father Tao was ordained in 1996, Father Shi was the only priest serving Catholics in the vast and mountainous diocese, particularly the 10,000-20,000 ethnic Tibetan Catholics in Deqing autonomous prefecture, northwestern Yunnan.

He knew at least three minority languages including Tibetan.

According to Father Tao, Father Shi had lost all his teeth while in jail and had been physically weak for a long time. Still, his dedication to tribal Catholics had made him visit them even in his last days, Father Tao said.

"It was a great loss to the Church but a time for Father Shi to rest, as he worked so hard for the Church," noted Father Tao, in his 30s and now the lone priest in Dali diocese.

END

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution