VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Bishop Augustine Hu Daguo of the apostolic prefecture of Shiqian, Shihtsien, in the Chinese province of Guizhou, died on Feb. 17 at the age of 90.
The bishop, who was approved by the Pope and part of the underground Church, spent decades in prison and forced labor camps because of his fidelity to the Pontiff.
In China, religious practice is only permitted by the government with the oversight of the Catholic Patriotic Association, the body through which the authorities recognize religious personnel and register places of worship. Hence there is a “national” or “official” church, directed by the Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.
And then there are the laypeople, priests and bishops who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church.
L’Osservatore Romano reported today on the death of Bishop Hu, noting that “the civil authorities, who never recognized him as bishop, impeded his residing in Shiqian.”
It continued: “Despite the fact that his residence was in Duyun, in the Archdiocese of Guiyang, with discretion and effectiveness he administered the clergy and faithful of his apostolic prefecture with great zeal and spiritual fervor, giving life and hope to the various parish communities, scattered in the mountainous region.
“Bishop Hu led a life teaching simplicity and poverty, in full adherence to the principles of the universal Church and to the primacy of Peter.
“He was very gifted from the intellectual point of view and was always esteemed by all as an ecclesiastical saint.”
“In the last years,” L’Osservatore Romano reported, “he did not hide his difficulties with language, with understanding and with mobility, though he continued to spend his energies in the service of the Lord and to dedicate himself particularly to hearing the confessions of the faithful.”
The prelate’s funeral was held on Feb. 20. The news article noted, “In him, as in so many other Chinese bishops who have died in the last years, were fulfilled the words of the Book of Wisdom (3:1): ‘But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.'”
Augustine Hu Daguo was born on May 15, 1921 to a family of long Christian tradition in Tongzhou. He was baptized when he was only one month old.
From the age of 7 to 11 he learned to know the Sacred Scriptures, regularly frequenting the local Catholic church.
In 1936 Hu entered the diocesan minor seminary of Guiyang. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1951.
After his priestly ordination he taught in the major seminary and in 1955 he was sent to work in the parish of Youtangkou as vice-pastor. On April 4 Father Hu was arrested, and then imprisoned for almost three years in the detention center of Guizhou.
In 1958, the priest was sentenced to ten years of forced labor and re-education in three different factories in Guizhou. At the end of his sentence he was sent to the factory of Fuquan in semi-detention. Later he was sent to teach in the theological seminary of Chengdu, in the province of Sichuan.
The difficulties for the priest were still not over, because four years later he was removed from his position due to his firm fidelity to the Pope. Hence, he decided to return to Guizhou, where he was appointed pastor of Duyun, Dushan, Fuquan, Tuanbo and Wen’an.
In 1987 he was ordained a bishop by Bishop Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding. In 1999, at the age of almost 80, Bishop Hu sustained a leg injury, from which he never really recovered.