30 December 2013
Chinese burial row resolved as officials buy new cemetery for diocese
A tense stand-off between the Chinese Government and a Catholic diocese has been resolved after state officials bought a small plot for local Catholics to bury their recently deceased bishop.
Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe was buried in his diocese, Tangshan, in Hebei province in North China, on Christmas Eve, the Asian Catholic news agency UCAN reported.
Bishop Liu, who died on 11 December aged 92, and his parishioners wanted him to be buried in Lulong Cemetery, which was taken over by the state after the Communists took power in the 1950s and used as farmland. The diocese’s first bishop, Ernst Geurts, was buried there in 1940.
The diocese refused to bury Bishop Liu until the cemetery was returned, but has now agreed to bury him in a 0.33 hectare plot at Beigang village in Qianxi county, which the government bought to replace Lulong Cemetery.
According to UCAN, a small number of anonymous lay Catholics have criticised the decision, but government negotiators warned that discussions would be closed if the diocese did not accept the alternative plot.
After Tangshan diocese announced that it would not bury Bishop Liu until the Government returned the land, UCAN reported that diocesan clergy were taken to the offices of the State Administration for Religious Affairs for questioning and that the mobile phones of all priests and nuns in Tangshan were monitored.
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