The death of a prominent Catholic priest, whose body was found floating in a tributary of the Yellow River in China, is unlikely to be suicide according to those who knew him well.
Father Pedro Wei HePing was due to be travelling to a catechetical meeting last week in another province when he was reported by the Chinese authorities to have committed suicide. He was 41 years old.
“Knowing Father Wei for almost two decades since his student days, this foundation and many of his friends believe that it is out of his character to commit suicide,” said Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation which monitors the treatment of Catholics in China.
“We appeal to the Chinese government to thoroughly investigate the cause of death of Father Wei and publish the findings quickly and truthfully.”
Father Wei was born into a Catholic family in Shanxi Province and entered the seminary in 1993. He was sent to Europe for advanced studies. He graduated with a Master’s degree in Canon law of the Catholic Church. He was clandestinely ordained a priest in 2004 in China by an underground bishop.
Since his return to China in 2007, he devoted himself to pastoral work, particularly in extremely poor and desolated areas.
Focussing on youth development, he started “Pilgrimage on Foot” leading many youth groups to walk hundreds of miles as a way of faith formation and character building.
His zeal in vocation led him to established an underground seminary, taught by priests with advanced overseas qualifications.
“We believe that none of those acquainted with Father Wei would have believed such a suicide theory,” Mr Kung said. “He fully realised the risk of his vigorous pastoral effort, but continued to carry it out due to his deep love for the Church.
“Please pray for Father Wei and his family. He has lived his faith heroically.”