CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Memorial for priest dead under mysterious circumstances

HONG KONG (UCAN): Around 100 people attended a memorial service held for Father Pedro Wei Heping of the unofficial Church in China, who died three years ago under mysterious circumstances.
 
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun the former bishop of Hong Kong, led the service at St. Bonaventure Church, Tsz Wan Shan on November 15.
 
The body of the 41-year-old Father Wei of Ningxia Diocese, was found in a river in Taiyuan, in Shanxi province, northern China, in November 2015. Police claimed he committed suicide but his family was not allowed to see the autopsy report. According to a Church source, a large area of Father Wei’s brain suffered internal bleeding.
 
The cardinal said he did not believe Father Wei would commit suicide and hoped that one day the Church would make him a saint. 
 
Before the Mass a six-minute film was broadcast about the priest’s life, referring to his enthusiasm for preaching, nurturing young people, teaching and caring for disadvantaged groups, especially those in poor areas.
 
The film’s background music, Peace, had lyrics describing Father Wei as being unafraid of power and exhibiting truth, generosity and humility while “shining the light of peace.”
 
In his homily, Cardinal Zen said Father Wei “led many people to be priests, became integrated with Church members and went to very poor places to be with the most loyal people of God, and those people are the most simple as the seeds enter their heart immediately blooming and bearing fruit.”
 
He said, “People who know him will never believe he would commit suicide because a hero will not commit suicide.”
 
The congregation prayed for Father Wei and his family along with oppressed Chinese clergy, including missing Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding in Hebei province; Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou of Zhejiang province; Bishop Augustin Cui Tai, Father Su Guipeng and Father Zhao He of Xuanhua of Hebei; and Father Liu Honggen of Baoding.
 
They also prayed for the faithful in China, that they would persist in their faith and pass the darkness in the face of religious suppression.
 
One of the attendees, Charles Tsang, remarked that as the Chinese authorities had not given a proper account of Father Wei’s death or ended its persecution of clergy and the Church, “we can hardly believe that the Chinese government will treat the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution in good faith.”
 
Maria Lee said that Father Wei’s death reminded her of the human rights activists, lawyers and civilians who have died or been detained without reason. “It is a terrible thing,” she said.
 
She said she was saddened that the Holy See had not asked the Chinese government to investigate the truth of Father Wei’s death. 
 
Cardinal Zen referred to the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on Youth. “But some people think that young people are not qualified to listen to the truth because people under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter the church in China,” he said.
 
“They also want (unofficial) priests to sign a paper to participate in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. But the association is a government tool to suppress the Church. How can we sign?” he asked.

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