Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Bishop Andrew Han Jingtao, of the "unofficial" community of Siping (Jilin), died in the night between 30 and 31 December 2020. Born on July 26, 1921, to a devoted Catholic family from Shanwanzi, Weichang County, Hebei, the family moved to Linxi County, Inner Mongolia during his childhood. In 1932 he entered the Minor Seminary of Siping and in 1940 joined the Major Seminary of Changchun. He was ordained a priest on 14 December 1947. Because of his Catholic faith and his loyalty to the Pope, he was arrested in 1953 and, after a period of imprisonment, he was sentenced to forced labor for 27 years, 6 of which he spent in isolation in a bunker.
In 1980, thanks to the intervention of Vice-President Deng Xiaoping, he was released in consideration of the services that he, as a scholar, could render to the State. He worked as a lecturer at Changchun Normal University and at The Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations at the Northeast Normal University, with the title of associate professor. He introduced many Chinese students to the study of Latin and Greek as well as classical western culture. After dedicating himself to his studies at an early age, he was regarded by the faithful as a "giant of culture and faith", but was also valued for his commitment to civil education. His main works include the translation of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas into Chinese.
On May 6, 1982 he was secretly consecrated Coadjutor Bishop of Siping, of which in 1986, after the death of Mgr. Chang Zhenguo, he became ordinary bishop. As such, he was particularly involved in the formation of priests, nuns and lay people, not failing to sensitize all the faithful about evangelization and charity. In the diocese he founded the Legio Mariae and the Religious Congregation of Mount Calvary, a male branch and a female branch. In 1993 he founded the first health center and the first retirement home of the diocese, as well as an orphanage.
In recent years, Bishop Han Jingtao lived under the tight control of the police. After the funeral, in which neither the clergy nor the faithful were able to participate, the remains were cremated. Thanks to the urgent requests of the members of his family, the local authorities allowed that the ashes of the Bishop to be placed in the cemetery of his native village, alongside his parents. No religious sign or title of Bishop is present on his tombstone. (Agenzia Fides, 23/2/2021)