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Police in China smash tombstone of priest

JINZHOU (UCAN): The tombstone of Father Joseph Shi Liming, a priest from the unofficial Church community who was killed along with six seminarians in a car crash on December 11, was destroyed by police on March 19 to stop people marking the 100-days since his death.

Government officials in Jinzhou and Baoding in northern Hebei province warned local Catholics on March 18 not to observe his death in the usual manner, local people reported.

Father Liming was 39 when he died. He was traveling with seven seminarians, six of who were also killed, when the minivan he was driving collided with two trucks.

People in his hometown in Damaquan, in the county of Zhaoxian, planned to erect a tombstone with the words, “The grave of Father Shi Liming” inscribed on it.

However, county police officers turned up to take the tombstone away. When the late-priest’s family tried to stop them, they smashed the tombstone with a sledgehammer.

They said later that Father Shi “was not recognised by the government and that it is unlawful to erect a tombstone denoting him as a priest,” UCA News was told.

Only his family and some Catholics living in the village were able to pray at his graveside. Police stationed themselves around the village to prevent people from other areas coming in to attend the requiem service.

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