ASIANEWS: Underground Bishop of Xiwanzi dies, security tightened for funeral

Lest we get too involved with our oh-so-difficult problems in our parishes or dioceses….

From AsiaNews:

Underground Bishop of Xiwanzi dies, security tightened for funeral
by Zhen Yuan

Although the area is under heavy snow, thousands of faithful are expected for the funeral. The government bans display of Episcopal insignia, prohibits the publication of obituaries and allows only three priests to attend the ceremony. In 2009, 7 Chinese bishops died. In China only 94 pastors remain.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Coadjutor Bishop Leo Yao Liang of Xiwanzi, Hebei province, died in hospital Dec. 30 at the age of 86, almost one year after his release from a 30-month detention. Authorities have tightened security ahead of his funeral.

 Meanwhile the ordinary Bishop Hou Jinli 93, is quite ill, suffering from diabetes. Both prelates are not recognized by the government-sanctioned open Church in China.

The death of Bishop Yao has left 94 bishops alive in mainland China – 38 from the underground and 56 from the official Church, according to Anthony Lam, senior researcher of Holy Spirit Study Centre in the Hong Kong diocese.  Speaking to AsiaNews, he adds that seven bishops in China – three from underground (including Yao) and four from the official Church – passed away, in 2009.

 Despite heavy snow in northern China, thousands of local Catholics are expected to attend Bishop Yao’s funeral Mass at Xiwanzi town church, Chongli county, Hebei province, on Jan. 6. Local sources say public security has been tightened, preventing people from outside the county from attending the funeral. 

Government officials only recognized Bishop Yao as a priest and as such will only permit the funeral for priest not for a bishop. Only three priests of the diocese are allowed to celebrate the funeral Mass, and local Catholics are not allowed to issue a Church obituary on the prelate.

Bishop Yao was brought away by police in July 2006 and was returned to the church on Jan. 25, 2009, the Chinese New Year Eve, after a 30-month detention (see. 03/08/2006 Hebei: bishop, priest and 90 unofficial Catholics arrested). Since then, the prelate had been under close surveillance. Bishop Hou in near by Zhangbei county is also closely monitored.  Despite this Bishop Yao had started to build a church in Xiwanzi, and its foundation has just been laid.

Born in 1923, Yao was ordained a priest in 1948 and clandestinely ordained coadjutor bishop in 2002. His body will be buried in the clergy graveyard, about 10 minutes from the Xiwanzi church, in which the last Bishop Melchior Zhang Kexing of Xiwanzi who died in 1988, and other priests were buried.

Succeeding Bishop Zhang, Bishop Hou was clandestinely ordained a bishop in 1984. Hou was born in 1916 and ordained a priest in 1943.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. cirrus says:

    Eternal rest grant unto his soul Oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace, Amen.

  2. theloveofwisdome says:

    Fr. Z, do either of the bishops (underground or otherwise) ordained in China recieve papal permision to be consecrated? If not, does this not incur an automatic excommunication like it did with the 4 sspx bishops? If this is true, why does Rome not excommunicate the ‘civil church’ bishops? – or the undergroung bishops? (or have they, idk) – thanx

  3. Thomas S says:


    Apples and oranges. I don’t know Canon Law, but I can see the difference between bitter persecution of the Church in China and the situation of LeFebvre and his followers.

  4. Penta says:


    I’m going to leave aside the canon law questions. However, I can speak to Vatican approval – it has been reported in the press that an increasing number of “official” bishops do in fact have (very quietly) sought (and been granted) Vatican approval of their consecrations as bishops, as have (most of?) the underground bishops.

    More to the point, if I remember the SSPX case correctly, they went ahead despite being warned not to by the Vatican.

    In the Chinese situation, there hasn’t been that.

  5. Theodorus says:

    All underground bishops received papal permission, and aroun 80% of Official Church bishops are approved by the Pope (some were approved before they were consecrated, and many were approved after they submitted application for approval after they were consecrated)

  6. wanda says:

    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and may Your perpetual light shine upon him, may he and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.

  7. fenetre says:

    The situation for Catholics is still very difficult in China today. The persecution which started in 1953 has never truly stopped, it is just a changing in form. The underground Church has no freedom. When one is not free to choose, as outsiders we can hardly judge, can we? God will surely richly reward Bishop Yao. May he rest in peace. Amen.

  8. ckdexterhaven says:

    Makes me thankful to be an American. Free to worship (for now). Even in the worst hippie church, we should give thanks that we are able to worship w/out fear. What a holy man.

  9. Clinton says:

    We are so lucky here in the West. God bless Bishop Xiwanzi.

Comments are closed.