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Funeral of unofficial bishop tightly controlled

HONG KONG (UCAN): The funeral of Bishop Stephen Li Side of the unofficial community of Tianjin, was celebrated on June 10 under strict government control. The bishop, who was 92-years-old, suffered a stroke in mid-May and was admitted to a hospital in Ji County. He died on June 8.
Coadjutor Bishop Shi Hongzhen, was not allowed to attend the funeral. A source said he had been under 24-hour surveillance by local authorities who had restricted his movement. Priests from the unofficial Church were only allowed to attend part of it and police kept an eye on them.
The Tianjin Catholic Patriotic Association was put in charge of the funeral. Requests by priests of the unofficial community to allow Bishop Shi to celebrate the funeral were rejected because Bishop Li and Bishop Shi were not recognised by the government. Father Zhu Lige, a member of a government religious commission in Tianjin, celebrated the funeral.
However, the priests were allowed to organise a requiem Mass celebrated by a senior priest, Father Yang Wanyuan, at a funeral home. The presence of laypeople and the taking of photographs was banned.
Bishop Li’s headstone named him only as a pastor because he was not recognised as a bishop by the government.
A local Catholic said Bishop Li’s death led to many messages on the Internet. “However, they were deleted quickly and I think it was done by authorities,” he said.
Father Paul, a diocesan priest of the with the official Church, said that he had visited Bishop Li several times in the past year to seek his advice. However, the bishop was always aware of being monitored and invited priests to go to an inner room so that it was safer for them.
Bishop Li was born to a Catholic family on 3 October 1926, in Zunhua city, Hebei province. He committed himself at a young age to serve the Lord. He entered the minor seminary at 13-years-old and joined St. Vincent Seminary in Beijing in 1949. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tianjin on 10 July 1955 and was ordained the bishop in 1982.
Bishop Li was arrested in 1989 after attending a Chinese Bishops’ Conference meeting that was not recognised by the government. He was arrested three times in his life and was imprisoned for more than 20 years.

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