Stand-off as Chinese diocese refuses to bury its bishop

19 December 2013 | by Liz Dodd

A diocese in China has refused to bury its recently deceased bishop until the Government returns a local church cemetery, prompting officials to take clergy away for questioning today.

Thousands of people attending a memorial service yesterday at Tangshan Cathedral, east of Beijing, applauded when it was announced that the burial of for Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe, died on 11 December, aged 92, would be delayed.

In response to the announcement, officials on Wednesday morning took clergy away to offices of the State Administration for Religious Affairs in their respective parishes, the Asian news agency UCAN reported.

The mobile phones of all priests and nuns in Tangshan are now under surveillance, a source who declined to be named told UCAN.

Ownership of nearby Lulong cemetery has been in dispute for six decades. The first bishop of the diocese, Ernst Geurts of Holland, was buried there in 1940 and other priests and nuns were later buried there. It was wrecked during the political turmoil of the 1950s and the state subsequently claimed it for farmland, allowing Bishop Liu in 1993 to rebury the clergy and nuns in a small corner.

Bishop Liu had fought for the return of the site several times.

Illicitly ordained without papal mandate in 1981, Liu was finally recognised by the Vatican in 2008 and retired two years later.

Church members are guarding the body inside Tangshan Cathedral.

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