Bishop Yao Dies; Spent 30 Years in Forced Labor

1 of 6 Chinese Prelates Who Passed Away in 2009

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ROME, JAN. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican’s semi-official daily newspaper has marked the death of Bishop Leo Yao Liang with a lengthy obituary. The prelate died Dec. 30 at age 86.

The bishop served as the coadjutor of the Diocese of Siwantze in Hebei Province. Five other Chinese prelates also passed away in 2009.

Leo Yao Liang was born April 11, 1923, in the Zhangbei region. He was ordained Aug. 1, 1948, and worked as an assistant parish priest in several parishes of the diocese until he was prevented from exercising his priestly ministry and obliged to earn his living by cultivating vegetables and selling wood.
 
In 1956 he was condemned to forced labor for refusing to join the movement to separate the Church from the Pope.

Two years later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the same «crime» of wanting to remain faithful to the Supreme Pontiff and the universal Church.
 
He was released in 1984, after almost 30 years in prison.

Father Yao was ordained a bishop in 2002 and was able to serve for a little more than four years before being arrested again.

This time, he would spend two and a half more years in prison.
 
Once released, he was kept under close surveillance, but was able to work in the diocese. Every week, more than 1,000 faithful attended his Sunday Mass.
 
«After monsignor Yao’s death, the civil authorities prohibited the Catholic community from honoring him with the title of ‘bishop,’ and obliged Catholics to use the title ‘illegal pastor,'» L’Osservatore Romano reported. «On the morning of Jan. 6, thousands of faithful from different parts of the country took part in his funeral, despite the police control and abundant snow, thus demonstrating that Bishop Yao was really a good shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep.»

L’Osservatore Romano concluded the obituary citing the Book of Wisdom: «But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. […] Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.»

China continues today to restrict religious activity in the country. The government permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association.  This explains the difference affirmed between the «national» or «official» Church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church

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