‘Underground’ bishop of Luoyang dies

Bishop Peter Li Hongye of Luoyang died shortly after suffering a heart attack while presiding over the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, April 23.

“The heart attack came suddenly when Bishop Li was blessing the holy water for baptism. The ambulance corps refused to rush him to hospital as they assessed the unconscious old man could not be saved,” a Church source said.The 91-year-old “underground” prelate who was not recognized by the government passed away at 10:30 pm, after he received sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Luoyang in central Henan province was one of the four ancient capitals of China. Thirteen dynasties made the city as their capitals. Our congregation, the Xaverian Missionaries set up a mission point at Luoyang in 1908. The Holy See erected the area as prefecture apostolic in 1929 and elevated it into a diocese in 1946.

His funeral is scheduled for April 29 at his hometown Gong county, about 50 kilometers east of Luoyang.
Though government officials are discouraging Catholics from attending the funeral, Church sources expect the security would not be as tight as in funerals of underground bishops in northern China.

According to the diocese’s obituary, Bishop Li was born into a Catholic family in 1920 and entered the seminary at the age of 17. After being ordained a priest in 1944, he served in a parish until he was arrested because of his faith in 1955.

Upon his release in 1985, he returned to work in the diocese. He was consecrated secretly as the Bishop of Luoyang two years later. He was detained in 2001 and placed under house arrest at the Mother of God church in downtown Luoyang until he suffered from heart disease in 2004, after which he returned to his home town to convalesce.

Due to a lack of clergy, financial support and religious venues, Luoyang is one of the least developed dioceses in China. It currently has about 10,000 Catholics, served by 18 underground and one “open” priests.

Most churches were not returned to the Church or were demolished due to city redevelopment. The Mother of Christ church, which was rebuilt in 2005, is the only religious venue of the “open” community in the diocese. Underground Catholics usually attend Mass at home. http://www.ucanews.com/

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