The president of the “underground” Catholic community's bishops’ conference in China, Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, died on 16 March, Sunday. He was 96, and was suffering from prolonged illness. The authorities have allowed two days for the faithful to pay their respects to the Jesuit bishop. Shanghai has lost a “steadfast and persevering” leader in Bishop Fan, said Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.He was a well respected churchman, Lam said on Monday, noting that even all young priests from the “open” community went to get Bishop Fan’s blessing before they were ordained.
About 5,000 people attended the funeral Mass of Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, president of China's 'underground' Bishops’ Conference, on 22 March, Saturday in Shanghai. The four-hour ceremony, held in Latin and Chinese, was celebrated by Father Zhu Yude, head of the underground community of Shanghai. Among the concelebrants were 61 priests from the 'open' and underground Catholic communities from various parts of China.
Bishop Fan was born in 1918 and baptized at 14 years old. He entered the Jesuit Society in 1938 and was ordained a priest in 1951. In 1955, he and the then Bishop Ignatius Kung (Gong Pin-mei, who later became a cardinal) and a number of priests were imprisoned accused of revolutionary crimes. The future Bishop Fan was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Qinghai province.
A mourning faithful at the funeral MassAfter his release, he became a high school teacher before being allowed to return to Shanghai. He was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of Shanghai in 1985 and succeeded Cardinal Kung when he died in 2000. “His name ‘Zhong’ and ‘Liang’ [loyal and kind] reflected his virtues throughout his life,” a layperson said on Monday.