Faithful throng Bishop Fan’s funeral

Famed underground bishop draws thousands of mourners

Catholics in China have thronged the funeral of the late Bishop Fan Zhongliang of the underground Church.

In the face of government disapproval for the underground Church, at least 5,000 mourners, religious and lay, gathered in Shanghai on March 22 to attend the requiem Mass for a man who suffered years of abuse and arrest for his faith.

Despite a ban on priests of the officially sanctioned Catholic Church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, it is reported that some 60 priests of the body were present.

A notable absence from the funeral was auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who remains under house arrest since his rejection of the Patriotic Association during his ordination in 2012.

Bishop Fan, who died on March 16, remains a hero to faithful of the underground Church. Ordained a Jesuit priest in 1951, he was arrested in 1955 and spent 30 years imprisoned with hard labour or under house arrest.

He was secretly ordained coadjutor Bishop of Shanghai in 1985, and on becoming bishop in 2000, was arrested once again, spending the remainder of his life under house arrest.

As Bishop Fan was never recognised as a prelate by the Chinese authorities, his final resting place is not inside the main St Ignatius Cathedral of Shanghai, but in a specially chosen plot in nearby Sheshan. During his funeral service, Bishop Fan’s coffin was draped in red to mark him as a martyr to the Faith in China.