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Priest’s body found in river

HONG KONG (UCAN): The body of Father Pedro Yu Heping, from the unofficial Church community in China, was found in the Fen River, a tributary to the Yellow River, which runs through Shanxi province on November 8.

Father Yu, who was also known as Wei Heping, ran a website that ran afoul of Chinese authorities some time ago. His death is being described as mysterious.

On November 11, police informed his family that his body had been found.

Father Yu was expected to be arriving in Xingcheng, in northeastern Liaoning province, on the previous day.

Church leaders from different parts of China and people who were close to the priest have gathered in Taiyuan, provincial capital of Shanxi, hoping to get more information.

“Two sisters saw Father Yu off on a bus to the train station in Taiyuan on November 6,” a person, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “Various Church people were still able to talk to him over the phone that day.”

Father Yu was expected in Xingcheng in the afternoon of November 7 to join a catechetical meeting, but he did not show up. Earlier in the day, a sister received a text message from his mobile phone. The message contained only one Chinese character—bie—which could be interpreted to mean farewell—the unnamed person said.

“No one believed Father Yu, a dedicated priest, would commit suicide,” the person stressed. “But now even a postmortem is not trustworthy.”

Forty-year-old Father Yu was the first webmaster of Tianzhujiao Zaixian, a popular Catholic web portal established in early 2000.

Because of the time difference between Europe and Asia, he and his team could translate news from the Vatican in a timely manner, making the unregistered website quite popular among Chinese Catholics.

However, its popularity drew attention from Chinese authorities and it was subsequently shut down. Father Yu claimed he was no longer involved with the website after it reopened in 2003.

Born in Shanxi, Father Yu had studied at Baoding Seminary, which was run by the unofficial community in Hebei province from 1993 until 1997.

He was ordained a priest for Ningxia diocese in 2004.

He furthered his studies at the Pontifical Bolivarian University in Columbia and at the Pontifical University of Salamanca in Spain. 

After earning a master’s degree in Church social teaching in 2006 and one in canon law in 2007, he returned to China and taught in various seminaries.

In recent years, Father Yu was active in publishing a theological journal and conducting research at several cultural institutes in China. He also brought young Catholics to remote areas to give talks and update people in parishes on developments in the Church.

 

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