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Bishop of Taizhou mourned

TAIZHOU (AsiaNews): Bishop Anthony Xu Jiwei, from the diocese of Taizhou in Zhejiang province, died on September 25 due to illness at the age of 81. 

He was ordained a bishop with permission from the Vatican in 2010 and was also recognised by the Chinese government.

A Mass was scheduled for the late bishop on the evening of September 29 and his funeral service was arranged for the early morning of the following day.

Born in Shanghai 1935, Bishop Xu answered the call to the priesthood and entered the minor seminary at the age of 13. He later went to Ningbo and then Xujiahui in his hometown of Shanghai.

His official obituary from the diocese of Taizhou describes him as always faithful and determined to offer himself to serve God, even in times of difficulty.

He went to the seminary in Ningbo in 1948, later moving to Shanghai where he remained until 1958. From 1960 to 1985, a time of extreme political turmoil in China, he was sentenced to five years in prison and later to long years of hard labour. He spent six years as a high school teacher during this period.

In 1985, his sentence was revoked and he was sent to Shanghai where he joined the Sheshan regional seminary with the first group of seminarians that was permitted to study when seminaries were allowed to open again.

Most, like Bishop Xu, had been in the seminary previously and had been forced to leave during times of repression or the Cultural Revolution.

In 1985, he was ordained a priest for Ningbo, but remained on the staff in Sheshan to teach, not returning to his home diocese until 1987.

In March 1999, he was transferred to Taizhou as a diocesan administrator and pastor of Jiaojiang. In July 2010 he was ordained as the bishop of the diocese.

“The period of imprisonment has strengthened my faith,” Bishop Xu once said. “During that period of great trial, I prayed every day... I realised that God loves me deeply and is with me every day.”

One claim to fame of the diocese of Taizhou is that Bishop Jou Hou-shan was one of the first group of six Chinese priests to be ordained a bishop by Pope Pius XII in October 1926. He was also the first bishop of the diocese.

Since it became an apostolic vicariate in 1926, Taizhou has only had two bishops; Bishop Jou and Bishop Xu. The first died in 1962 and the see was vacant until 2010. It is now vacant once again.

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