The underground bishop of Shanghai, His Excellency Joseph Fan Zhongliang, has died at age 97 following decades of imprisonment, harassment, torture and house arrest, genuine Catholic groups said Monday.
This undated handout picture released by Cardinal Kung Foundation on March 17, 2014 shows Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang — the head of the underground Catholic Church in Shanghai (The Cardinal Kung Foundation/AFP)
Fan died Sunday evening at his apartment in communist China in the company of priests and lay people following a brief illness, the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation and the unofficial website chinacath.org reported.
There are an estimated 12 million Catholic worshippers in China, about half of whom are tied to the schismatic “Catholic Patriotic Association” run by the Chi-Coms, and about half are with the one, true archipelago of “underground” churches that are constantly harassed and threatened by the Chi-Coms.
The Kung Foundation said communist officials in Shanghai, China’s financial hub, turned down a request to hold his funeral at the city’s cathedral and would only permit a small service at a funeral home, persecuting the faithful even after Fan’s death.
Fan was named Shanghai bishop in public by Pope John Paul II in 2000, but was refused recognition by the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association that oversees the church in China. Fan was immediately placed under house arrest and another priest, Aloysius Jin Luxian, was named bishop.
Fan was speculated to have been named in pectoris as a bishop years previously, a strategy employed by the Vatican since the 1950s to avoid overt persecution of bona fide bishops whose office was refused recognition by communist Chinese officialdom.
Bishop Fan in his later years sometime after the papal election of Pope Benedict XVI
Born in 1918, Fan was baptized a Catholic in 1932 and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1951, two years after the Communists seized power in mainland China. Arrested in 1955 after Communist leader Mao Tse-dung ordered Chinese Catholics to cut all ties with the Vatican, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “counter-revolutionary crimes” and forced to work at a labor camp mortuary in the remote western province of Qinghai. This is a typical tactic done by the Chi-Coms, and by communists in other countries like Soviet Russia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Burma etc.
After finishing his sentence, Fan was assigned to teach at a school for the children of party officials. He was permitted to return to Shanghai in 1985 under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms.