Yantai (Fides Service) - On Monday 24 January Bishop John Gao Kexian of the diocese of Yantai, in Shandong mainland China, who had been ill for some time died at the age of 86. The Bishop was born in 1928 to a family which had been Catholic for several generations. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Zhocun in 1983 and ten years later in 1993was made Bishop of Yantai.
Bishop Gao spent many years in prison and was banned for long periods from exercising his priestly ministry. Since the last time he was arrested, 16 November 1999, nothing more was heard of the Bishop, with regard to his whereabouts or health condition: he was ill, some said he had leukaemia others said he had cancer of the stomach.
The diocese of Yantai (Chefoo) is situated in east Shandong, on the coast of the Bohai Sea, has an area of 13,700 sq. km and a population of more than six million, including about 30,000 Catholics assisted by twenty priests and two congregations of women religious.
The death of the bishop remains a mystery: when the priests called by the family arrived to his home to pay their last respects and to pray at his death bed, they found the Bishop had already been cremated. This “good and zealous “ bishop - as he was known - passed away as he had lived in silence and suffering. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 28/2/2005 - Righe 15; Parole 213)