Jixian (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday, May 8, 2016, around noon, His Exc. Mgr. Luke Thomas Zhang Huaixin, Bishop of Jixian (Weíhwei), Henan Province (Mainland China) died. He would have turned 91 on May 23. On May 6 he had been admitted to hospital, following the worsening of diabetes and heart disease from which he had been suffering for a long time. The day before his death he was still lucid and remembered his youth.
Mgr. Luke Thomas Zhang Huaixin was born on May 23, 1925 in the village of Liangbudaying, Honghetun, District of Anyang, in a devout Catholic family. His vocation was cared by Italian missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who worked in Henan. In 1934 he entered the Minor Seminary of the Diocese of Jixian and then went to the Major Seminary of Kaifeng. He was ordained a priest by His Exc. Mgr. Gaetano Pollio, P.I.M.E., Archbishop of Kaifeng, on October 19, 1950.
After ordination he carried out his pastoral ministry in Tianjin and Anyang. In 1958 he was arrested and sentenced to forced labor camps because of his faith. Only in 1980 he was able to return to carry out his pastoral ministry. On 19 October 1981 he was secretly consecrated Bishop of Jixian by His Exc. Mgr. Giulio Jia Zhiguo, Bishop of Zhengding, in Hebei.
Mgr. Luke Thomas Zhang Huaixin is remembered by those who knew him as a zealous and patient Pastor, full of faith and dedicated to evangelization: the communities met regularly; he restored and built churches, including the cathedral; he initiated several health centers, a catechetical center and one for spiritual retreats; he followed the formation of priests; He supported the development of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Under his leadership, the Diocese of Jixian grew in number of priests, nuns and faithful, as well as the commitment in the health and catechetical field. Some of his priests were ordained by legitimate Bishops, recognized by the civil authorities. The same Mgr. Zhang Huaixin accepted the government's recognition, but remained true to the principles of fidelity and communion with the Pope and without adhering to organizations whose purpose is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
A large number of faithful paid tribute to his mortal remains, exposed in the cathedral, and took part in the funeral, which was held on 14 May. (Agenzia Fides 23/05/2016)