Thousands of people gathered at a Shanghai square today to mourn the death of “underground” Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, who passed away at the age of 97 after being gravely ill for the past 10 days.
Fan, who was never recognized by the government as a bishop, spent nearly 20 years under house arrest. Mourners who packed the square to bid farewell yesterday said his faith led him to endure years of suffering at the hands of China’s Communist Party, according to SCMP.
China has a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican’s authority, as well as an “underground” church. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.
“I came here to bid farewell to our bishop,” said a woman in her 60s who gave her name only as Clare and who was among a throng of mourners gathered outside the funeral home where Fan’s body was laid out.
“He had kept loyal to the Lord throughout his life and endured great suffering. I have great respect for him,” she said of Fan, who was appointed bishop of Shanghai in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
In the square outside the funeral home, a large screen displayed photos of Fan while mourners sang, prayed and listened to a man narrating the bishop’s life story.
As Bishop Jin died last year, the diocese of Shanghai has only one bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who was placed under house arrest when he announced his resignation from China’s Patriotic Catholic Association last year. He has since been “sent to political classes”, according to recent reports.
[Image via Asia News]