Yongnian/Handan (Agenzia Fides) – This past November 5, the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Yongnian/Handan, Hebei (China Mainland), Bishop Peter Chen Bolu, passed away. He was 97 years old. The Bishop was born June 3, 1913, into a poor family of peasants, with a Catholic tradition. He was the third of 6 brothers and sisters. In 1932, he entered the Minor Seminary of the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" of the Diocese of Yongnian/Handan. During his time in the minor seminary, he also studied to become an ophthalmologist.
At the end of 1937, he entered the Seminary of Xianxian and in 1939, having completed his studies in philosophy, returned to the Minor Seminary to teach Latin. In the late autumn of 1940, he began to study theology at the major seminary, but because of the invasion of the Japanese, the seminarians were dispersed to various parts of China. Finally, on June 29, 1944, he was ordained a priest.
After his ordination, he was sent to a parish which was also home to the eye clinic of Chengan. He became director of the clinic, with the help of a dozen nuns of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, working for the poor and the sick who came from all parts of China.
In 1958, the Eye Clinic of Chengan was confiscated by the state, and Bishop Chen was sent to work in the rural village Dongtunzhuang, where he worked with all his strength, while maintaining harmony with everyone, Catholic or non-Catholics. During this period forced labor, he celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments to the faithful of that area.
In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards wanted to put him to death, but all the people of that area, who considered him a holy man, opposed. In September 1966, he was imprisoned in the jail of Jizexian. Dopo its release in 1970, he went home and worked as a farmer, helping all, dedicating his life to the work of evangelization in villages Chengan, Weixian, and Daming, and administering the sacraments to Catholics in the area.
In 1985, Bishop Chen founded a home for elderly and disabled patients and began to reorganize the religious life of sisters who had survived the Cultural Revolution. On April 29, 1986, he was consecrated bishop, but it was not until May of 1988 that he was allowed to exercise his episcopal ministry. In 1991, he asked and obtained from the government a piece of land for a cemetery for priests, nuns, and consecrated persons in his diocese.
In 1994, he founded the Hospital of Dazhong," where he spent the last years of his life. On November 30, 1996, he consecrated Bishop Yang Xiangtai as his coadjutor, and in September 1999 he resigned from the diocese. After his resignation as Bishop of the Diocese always lived in the hospital he had founded and on November 5, 2009, the Lord called him to Himself.
When Chen was ordained Bishop, the Diocese of Yongnian/Handan had six elderly priests and 60,000 Catholics.Upon Bishop Chen's death, thanks to his zealous work, the diocese has 93 priests and 130,000 Catholics. (Agenzia Fides 4/12/2009)