ASIA/CHINA - Together official and underground Catholics at funeral of Bishop Francis Xavier Guo Zhengji pay last respects to bold witness of the faith

Saturday, 15 May 2004

Bameng (Fides Service) - Bishop Francis Xavier Guo Zhengji, Bishop of Bameng, Inner Mongolia (mainland China) died of a respiratory condition on 3 May. The Bishop’s funeral was held in the county of Dengkou 812 km west of Beijing in Sanshenggong where the Bishop had been living since 1985.
Despite strict police surveillance many underground Catholics came for the funeral. This was yet another sign of Chinese Catholics’ “passion for unity” and also a sign of hope for increasing collaboration between the two communities. The underground Catholics came, despite the risk being arrested, to pay homage to the Bishop Guo Zhengji and to be united in one family with their brothers and sisters of the official community. For reasons of health, Bishop Ma Zhongmu, the only ethnic Mongolian bishop was unable to attend the funeral.
Bameng diocese has at present 21 priests 30 women religious and 30,000 Catholic faithful.
Bishop Francis Xavier Guo Zhengji died five days after leaving Yinchuan hospital where he went since early March for treatment. Every year in Spring, since 1999 when he was hospitalised for the first time, he used to have trouble with his breathing. More than 1,000 Catholics, priests, about 30 priests and 40 women religious were at the funeral. The concelebrants at the Mass included Bishop John Liu Jingshan, Bishop of Ningxia who was a seminarian with Bishop Francis Xavier Guo Zhengji; Bishop John Liu Shigong, Bishop of Wumeng, a pupil of the late Bishop and Bishop Francis Tong Hui Bishop of Yan’an in the neighbouring province of Shanxi. Also present dozens of representatives of different ethnic groups and civil authorities.
Bishop Francis Xavier Guo Zhengji was born in a Catholic family in Dengkou in April 1913, he entered the diocesan seminary in 1929 and was ordained for the diocese of Ningxia in 1942. He obtained a degree at FU JEN University in Beijing, and taught in the seminary for six years before becoming diocesan procurator.
Bishop Guo Zhengji was arrested in 1958, and detained in Tangshan, prison in the province of Hebei, until 1978, and forced to work in the local salt mines. In 1979 he resumed his ministry and was appointed in 1990 Bishop of Bameng diocese in north west Inner Mongolia with territory taken from the diocese of Ningxia.
Besides his native language, Bishop Guo Zhengji was fluent in Latin, French and English. He loved to write and voice his opinions. In 1997, while visiting Belgium he described the Church in China as a community in rapid growth since 1980, flourishing with many new baptisms and numerous vocations.
One of his deepest desires was to see reopened his old Alma Mater FU JEN University in Beijing, and to meet his old companions of studies, including two Bishops who are still alive: Archbishop Zhao Ziping, Archbishop of Jinan in Shandong and Bishop Paul Cheng Shi-guang, emeritus Bishop of Tainan, in Taiwan. (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2004; Righe 38; Parole 531)