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Bishop Cai Of Wuzhou, Known For His Simple Life, Dies At 90

Updated: August 22, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
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The simplicity and religious fervor of Bishop Benedict Cai Xiufeng, who died Aug. 20 at the age of 90, is well known among Catholics of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwestern China.

"The departure of Bishop Cai is a big loss to the Church," Bishop John Baptist Tan Yanquan of Nanning told UCA News Aug. 22. "We´ll miss him."

The late bishop was "fervent and spiritual," prayed every morning and evening with his nuns and seminarians even when his health was failing, Bishop Tan said. Bishop Cai "sacrificed his whole life for the Church."

Bishop Tan, now the only bishop in Guangxi, will preside at the funeral Mass on Aug. 24. The late prelate´s body will be cremated after the 10 a.m. liturgy.

Father Yang Shiqing, parish priest at the Wuzhou church, told UCA News that local Catholics attended a requiem Mass on the morning of Aug. 22.

Bishop Cai was diagnosed with vascular sclerosis, and heart and kidney disease five years ago, the priest said.

Without any designated episcopal successor, the diocese is now managed by the priests collectively, he added. Its four priests, 26 nuns and five seminarians serve 20,000 Catholics.

Father Yang confirmed that Bishop Cai was well known for his simple life. For instance, he was still wearing the clothes he bought 20 years ago with three yuan (US$0.40) before he died, and always advised local Catholics not to place too much emphasis on money.

"The love of money will make one fall into hell," Father Yang quoted the prelate as saying.

Bishop Cai also lived a disciplined life. Each day, according to Father Yang, he rose at 4:30 a.m. to meditate, celebrated Mass at 6:10 and then started reading. He had no television or mobile phone, and got information only from newspapers and magazines, the priest noted.

The bishop also used to attend to Church affairs in person, and would advise priests and nuns on catechism classes and other Church matters, added the priest, who described the bishop as being "like a father" to him.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher of Hong Kong diocese´s Holy Spirit Study Centre, told UCA News that Bishop Cai was honest and straightforward in his dealings with people. He also liked to travel on foot, said Lam, who had met the prelate.

Bishop Cai was born in Pingnan, Guangxi, in 1917, and baptized in 1932. He entered St. Andrew´s minor seminary of Jiangmen diocese, in Guangdong province. In 1935, he entered Wuzhou seminary, and later Guiyang major seminary in Guizhou, in 1944.

In 1946, he moved to Hong Kong to study in the Southern China Seminary. Two years later, he was ordained a priest of Wuzhou diocese back in Pingnan. He worked here until 1950, during which time he also taught Latin and English in the seminary.

In 1951, he was transferred to Wuzhou to become the parish priest there, and was later named administrator of Wuzhou. But in 1958, he was sent to a reform-through-labor camp for 20 years.

Following his release in 1978, he worked at a farm in Zhongshan, Guangdong. In 1980, he returned to Wuzhou and taught English at a high school, and three years later he returned to serve as a priest of Wuzhou diocese.

He was ordained bishop of Wuzhou, recognized by the Vatican, in December 1993 and served in this capacity until he died.


(Accompanying photos available at here)

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