19 March 2014, The Tablet

Chinese officials refuse cathedral funeral request for bishop

by Ellen Teague and Abigail Frymann

Clergy pray beside body of Shanghai Bishop Joseph Fan ZhongliangA Chinese bishop who spent more than two decades in communist Beijing’s prison and labour camps died last Sunday under house arrest aged 95.

Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, the leader of the “underground” Catholic Church in China, was appointed bishop of Shanghai by Pope John Paul II in 2000, a move Beijing refused to recognise.

Officials this week turned down a request to hold his funeral at the city's cathedral, allowing only a small service at a funeral home.

Bishop Fan, a Jesuit, was ordained a priest in 1951, two years after the Communists seized power. He refused to recognise the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which rejects the authority of the Vatican.

Catholics pray in Shanghai cathedral after death of Bishop Fan

Beijing approved as an auxiliary bishop in Shanghai Fr Aloysius Jin Luxian, whom the Vatican recognised later in 2005 as an Apostolic Administrator to Bishop Fan. Bishop Jin died last April.

According to AsiaNews, the authorities this week refused to let Bishop Fan's body be taken to a church, and took it instead to a funeral home where they allowed the faithful to pay their respects.

Priests have said Masses at the funeral home and although government officials ordered a low-profile funeral, crowds of the faithful from both the official and underground communities have been coming to the services.

One priest also publicly prayed for the man appointed to take over the running of the Shanghai diocese, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who has been detained in his seminary since renouncing his membership of the Patriotic Association at his episcopal ordination in 2012.

Parishioners were also able to get a catafalque placed in Shanghai’s St Ignatius Cathedral, where a Mass was celebrated for Bishop Fan.

From Rome, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Hong Kong-born Bishop Savio Hon Taifai, praised him as “a good pastor in every sense, who sacrificed everything for his sheep”, and appealed to the Chinese Government to allow Bishop Ma to celebrate the funeral Mass.

“It would be a respectful gesture towards religious freedom and towards an elderly person such as Mgr Fan,” he wrote, as well as “an experience of fraternity and harmony among Christians from which the entire city could only benefit”.

Top: The bishop's body was taken to a funeral home. Above: Catholics pray in Shanghai cathedral. Photos: AsiaNews

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