FUZHOU, China, FEB. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Fuzhou, who spent nearly one-third of his life in prison, has died of throat cancer. He was 94.
The news agency Fides reported that Archbishop Giuseppe Zheng Changcheng died in December in his residence.
Benedict XVI, upon hearing of the archbishop’s illness, had sent him a letter and a bishop’s ring from the Holy See as a sign of communion with the Pope.
Born to a poor family of carpenters in 1912, Giuseppe Zheng Changcheng entered the seminary in Fuzhou in 1926. He studied for the priesthood in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
He was ordained a priest in 1937 and appointed administrator of the archdiocese in 1951.
In 1955, he was accused of being a counter-revolutionary and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. While in detention, he converted several prison inmates with his witness, reported Fides.
Released in 1983, he worked to revitalize the local Church. He was rector of the seminary from 1988 to 1992.
At 79, he was ordained archbishop in Fuzhou.
Over the next years he restored some 30 churches, and built the diocesan shrine Rosa Mystica, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is located 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) outside of Fuzhou.
Fides reported that the archbishop “was never heard to complain during the long years spent in prison.”
After his death, the archbishop’s body was taken to the Rosa Mystica Shrine where daily prayers were said until his funeral Mass at the end of December.
With more than 200,000 Catholics, the Archdiocese of Fuzhou is one of the oldest dioceses in China.