Bishop Michael He Jinmin Dies At 87, Leaves Diocese Of Ningbo Thriving

2004-06-30 00:00:00

The first bishop to lead Ningbo since the local Church revived in 1980 died recently, leaving a thriving diocese in the government-approved open Church inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Michael He Jinmin of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, died at 87 on May 4 after a two-year battle with liver cancer. His funeral Mass was celebrated on May 7 by Bishop Matthew Hu Xiande, his coadjutor and successor.

The new ordinary, 69, told UCA News on June 28 that despite Bishop He´s advanced age and formation as a priest before the Communist regime began in 1949, the late bishop kept pace with the times and was eager to lead the local Church in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

The late Bishop He was ordained a priest in 1944. He spent 1958-1977 doing reform-through-labor, but returned in 1982 to serve the Ningbo church. He later became diocesan administrator and was ordained a bishop in 2000.

Closely following Church teachings, Bishop He encouraged Catholics to take part in evangelization, his successor pointed out. Bishop Hu also said that the late bishop had been very much respected in the diocese.

The two papal-approved bishops of Ningbo, ordained together at Ningbo cathedral on May 14, 2000, were the first two consecrated after Jan. 6 that year when the controversial episcopal ordination of five Chinese priests was conducted in Beijing without papal mandate.

According to Bishop Hu, though the local Church maintains a firm stand about its teaching, the local government and authorities respect the Catholic Church and have not interfered in Church matters. He added that the priests, nuns and laypeople of Ningbo diocese are very united as they live out their faith.

The diocese emphasizes Bible study, so study groups have been set up among the laypeople. In the past four years, three evangelization assemblies have been convened for local Catholics, and the Catholics increasingly assume their share of responsibility in evangelization, Bishop Hu said.

All 13 diocesan priests are young and energetic, he added, so Ningbo is vibrant and grows steadily, with Catholic numbers increasing an average of three percent a year. He said, "We are not growing as fast as the Protestant Church, but we are already doing very well with the resources we have."

According to Bishop Hu, Ningbo diocese now has about 25,000 Catholics, double the number it had in 1980.

Bishop Hu studied in Ningbo and Shanghai seminaries in 1950-1958 but had to join the government´s reform-through-labor program from 1958 to 1965.

After he was politically rehabilitated in 1978, he worked as a farmer until 1984. Then he became one of the first students of Sheshan Regional Seminary in Shanghai and, after his graduation, was ordained a priest in 1985.


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