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A quiet bishop dies a humble death

KAIFENG (UCAN) : Bishop Anthony Zong Changfeng, of the unofficial community in Kaifeng, central Henan province, was laid to rest during a ceremony in his hometown of Zhouzhi on November 29.

The coadjutor bishop, who never assumed office because of obstructions from the government, died on November 22 at the age of 79, after receiving the sacrament of the sick with his friends and supporters gathered around his sickbed.

Bishop Zong lived as a priest in Zhouzhi diocese, central Shaanxi province.

Local Catholics describe him as having been a genuine priest of the unofficial community, as he never even concelebrated at Mass with priests from the official community, nor even had contact with them.

“He put only on his zucchetto to say a Mass every day at home, which was attended by dozens of people,” a source said.

Living a frugal life, Bishop Zong’s enthusiasm for building churches and conducting pastoral work earned him the respect of local Catholics.

About 3,000 people from several counties attended his funeral in the Nanyu village church. Three bishops and some 40 priests concelebrated at the funeral Mass, after which his body was buried in the church courtyard.

Born into a Catholic family in 1932, Bishop Zong entered the seminary at the age of 12. He was forced to return home after the seminary was disbanded amid growing political turmoil. However, he maintained his priestly vocation while working as a livestock breeder and brick maker during the Cultural Revolution.

In 1979, when religious activities were revived, he was ordained a priest and then served in parishes in Zhouzhi. Despite many difficulties and his poor health, he organised Catholic people to pool sufficient resources to build 13 churches.

Bishop John Baptist Liang Xisheng, of Kaifeng, in the neighbouring province of Henan, secretly ordained Bishop Zong as his coadjutor in 1998, but the government prevented him from assuming his office and taking up his pastoral duties.

The impeded bishop continued to serve in the Zhouzhi diocese until his retirement due to ill health in 2008, after which he lived with a nephew in Nanyu village, until his recent death.

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