CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Trouble burying bishops

WUZHOU (UCAN): Bishop Benedict Cai Xiufeng died on 20 August 2007, which this year coincided with the end of what is known in China as Ghost Month, a time when tradition has it that ghosts and wild spirits revisit the earth.

However, the ghost of the late bishop of Wuzhou in Guangxi province still haunts his diocese for a different reason, as the people have never had the chance to give a proper burial and farewell to the much loved bishop.

It was his dying wish to be buried in his diocese, but six years on, the urn holding his ashes still haunts a room in the rectory in Xiwang, Pingnan county. 

Shortage of land for cemeteries is said to be the barrier to finding a final resting place for his mortal remains.

Local people give him great credit for his work starting a congregation of sisters in the diocese. 

“It is thanks to Bishop Cai that we have a religious women’s congregation. It began with three sisters and now has around 20,” one parishioner said. “New churches were also built, one after another.”

It was the bishop’s dying wish to be buried in the diocese. But the urn that holds his ashes was instead placed in a room in the rectory at Xiwang. And six years later, they are still there.

“I feel sad whenever I remember there has been no proper burial for the bishop even after six years,” another parishioner commented. “Our bishop worked industriously despite his ill health after being imprisoned for 20 years. He visited every corner of the diocese and often fainted on the road due to overtiredness.”

Father Yang Shiqing, noted that the diocese does not have its own cemetery, or sufficient money to purchase land to build one.

“The government hasn’t even returned properties that were formerly owned by the diocese and confiscated during the political turmoil of the 1950s,” he said. “Why would they allot another piece of land to us?”

The bishop’s family did offer a plot but, Father Yang said that it is in a location that would make it difficult for people to pay their respects.

He added that in recent years the people have not marked his death in any way, for fear the government may interfere. Government officials have been known to disrupt funerals and even damage the graves of bishops who are not recognised by the state.

However, it was for this very same reason that the late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, from Shanghai, who did have recognition from the Chinese government, chose to have his ashes thrown to the four winds at sea.

Before his death he noted that so many graves in the area had been desecrated and cemeteries destroyed or covered up to build car parks or shopping malls that he did not want to be buried in such a situation.

 

However, Father Yang explained that the Bishop Cai’s family has now purchased a plot next to Xiwang Church, which should be suitable for burial.

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