Chinese Bishop Dies at 79

Spent 20 Years Imprisoned

ROME, JAN. 30, 2008 ( Bishop Mattia Chen Xilu of Kinghsien, China, died at age 79, after six years in a coma.

L’Osservatore Romano confirmed the Jan. 16 death of the prelate. He had been in a coma due to suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in 2002.

Mattia Chen Xilu was born in 1928. He worked as a doctor after his ordination in a clinic of Jingxian, also spending time to evangelize.

He was eventually condemned to seven years of prison and three years of forced labor. He returned to his birthplace in 1969, but was again condemned to 10 more years of forced labor.

In 1979, the “L’Osservatore Romano reported, Father Chen was permitted to teach English. During this time, he undertook as much as possible his priestly ministry on Saturdays and Sundays, traveling, even as a street vendor if necessary, to reach the faithful and to evangelize villages and families.

He openly resumed his pastoral activity in 1980, given greater religious tolerance. Besides this he continued work in the health care fields, offering his services at the clinic of Jingxian and playing a role in opening a large ophthalmology clinic.

In 1996 he was consecrated coadjutor bishop; he succeeded Bishop Pietro Fan Wen-xing three years later. In 2002, following a stroke, he slipped into a coma. Since then he had not recovered consciousness.

In 2004, the pastoral government of the diocese passed to his coadjutor, Bishop Pietro Feng Xinmao.