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Centenarian Franciscan mourned in Taiyuan

TAIYUAN (Agencies) : “His life of dedication to serving the Lord is a true model for us all, as priests, men and women religious and laity,” Bishop Paolo Meng Ningyou, from Taiyuan, said in describing Father Mattia Leopoldo Guo Ji Fen, a 100-year-old Franciscan, who died on February 15.

We must imitate his fidelity to Christ, his zeal for spreading the love of God and the great sense of service to people,” the bishop continued.

Agenzia Fides reported that Father Guo served in the diocese of Taiyuan in Shanxi, China, after spending 25 years in prison.

Born on 18 February 1913, he is considered to have reached the age of 100, according to the Chinese custom of calculating life from the moment of conception, not birth.

He grew up in the village of Shui Gou, Taiyuan, entering the minor seminary in September 1926. On 12 February 1931, he joined the Franciscan novitiate.

After first profession on 13 February 1932, he took the religious name of Leopoldo and, on 3 September 1935, made his solemn vows in the order.

He was ordained a priest on World Mission Sunday 1937, October 24, by Franciscan Bishop Agapito Fiorentini (1866 to 1941), the apostolic vicar of the vicariate of Taiyuan from 1924 to 1940.

After ordination, Father Guo worked in a parish and was also rector of the minor seminary, as well as the diocesan chancellor.

He was imprisoned in September 1955 and not released until April 1985, with his time divided between prison and reeducation in labour camps.

He returned to pastoral work in April 1985 and was treasurer of the Major Seminary of St. John of Monte Corvino.

He retired from his official duties on 27 March 1996, but remained active to the end of his earthly life.

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