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China’s oldest bishop dead at 100

Yinchuan (UCAN): China’s oldest bishop, John Baptist Liu Jingshan, from Yinchuan (Ningxia), capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northern China, died on February 4 at the cathedral where he spent much of his time after his retirement in 2009. His health had been declining in recent months. He was 100-years-old.

Both Bishop Liu and his successor, Bishop Joseph Li Jing, are recognised by both the Vatican and the Chinese government.

The late bishop is credited with restoring the Church community in Ningxia after arriving there in 1983, following 30 years imprisonment in a labour camp.

Father Joseph Zhang Jianding, who knew Bishop Liu for 20 years, described him as kind and amiable, but one who set down strict demands on his priests and seminarians.

“He never tolerated any fault in my priestly life and work. He often criticised and corrected me harshly, sometimes even lost his temper,” said Father Zhang, “But he forgave me afterwards as if nothing had happened.”

Bishop Liu was born in 1913 in Bameng diocese, Inner Mongolia. He entered the minor seminary in 1929 and studied in two major seminaries from 1935 to 1942, while China was under occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Upon becoming a priest in 1942, he worked in a parish and then a minor seminary. In 1951, he was jailed and sentenced to a labour camp. In 1970, he was released and sent home to work as a farmer.

He began teaching in a school and resumed priestly work in 1979 after the Cultural Revolution ended and the government allowed religious activities to commence again.

Four years later, the then 70-year-old priest was invited to Ningxia to direct Church affairs. At that time, there were only two priests in the vast region where most of the population is Muslim. 

He travelled by bicycle to administer the sacraments and pay home visits to people who had ceased to practice their religion.

In 1993, the official Church restructured the Ningxia diocese according to its own administrative boundaries and the then Father Liu was ordained a bishop at the age of 80.

He ordained his coadjutor, Bishop Li, in 2007 and retired two years later.

Bishop Li said that 95-year-old Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, the retired bishop from Ningxia’s unofficial community paid his respects and celebrated a requiem Mass on February 5 for Bishop Liu.

Ningxia has around 15,000 Catholics, 12 priests and about 20 religious sisters, according to Bishop Li.

Bishop Liu’s funeral service was be held at the Yinchuan cathedral on February 8,, after which his body was buried at Xuhezhuang Church, Helan County.

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