Country´s oldest bishop dies in hospital he built

2009-11-05 17:20:47
The oldest bishop in mainland China, Peter Chen Bolu of Handan, died on Nov. 5 at the diocesan Dazhong Hospital which he built. He was 96.

Bishop Peter Chen Bolu (Photo courtesy of Handan diocese)

Since the healthcare pioneer opened the hospital in 1994, it has become the largest and most integrated of the 10 hospitals and clinics in the northern diocese. Father Louis Zhang Heshan of Handan diocese, who heads the hospital, told UCA News Catholics workers in the hospital and many diocesan priests came to visit the retired bishop before he died. The funeral of the Vatican-approved and government-recognized Church leader will be held at Qiancaozhuang village church in Yongnian county on Nov. 11. Father Zhang said the "two pillars of Bishop Chen´s long life were enduring hardships and prayers." Serving a sentence in the reform-through-labor camp in the Cultural Revolution, he was the most productive worker in the camp, the priest said. The bishop, in his old age, spent his time in the hospital attending Masses and adoring the Blessed Sacrament every day. In 1986, when Bishop Chen was episcopally ordained, the diocese had six elderly priests and 60,000 Catholics. Thanks to his efforts in evangelization and priestly formation, there are currently 93 priests and 130,000 Catholics. The government-approved Church community in Handan diocese is led by Vatican-approved Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai, 87, and has 66 priests. The "underground" community is split into two groups, which have 18 and 19 priests respectively. Bishop Chen was born in 1913 and ordained a priest in 1944. He was clandestinely ordained bishop by Bishop Francis Han Tingbi of Hongdong in 1986 and openly installed as Bishop of Handan on May 29, 1988. He retired in 1999.
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