Continental China: Monsignors Luke Li Jingfeng & Matthias Yu Chengxin Deceased

Mourning in the Episcopate of Fengxiang and Hanzhong

Pope meets Chinese pilgrims © L'Osservatore Romano

Monsignor Luke Li Jingfeng, Bishop of Fengxiang, in the province of Shaanxi, Continental China, died at 7:20 am on Friday, November 17, 2017. He was 96 and had been seriously ill for several months. The Prelate was born on January 15, 1921 in the village of Tongyuanfang, district of Gaoling, in Shaanxi, in a family of long Catholic tradition that had eight children. Ordained priest on June 29, 1947, he assumed various offices in the diocese, among which was teacher in the diocesan seminary, of which he was Rector from 1956 to 1959. At the same time he was also Chancellor. In 1959, he was arrested for being opposed to the “Movement of the Three Autonomies,” and taken to forced labour, where he remained for 20 years. He was freed in 1979.

On April 25, 1980 he was consecrated Coadjutor Bishop of Fengxiang by Monsignor Anthony Zhou Weidao and on February 14, 1983 he became Ordinary of Fengxiang following the death of Monsignor Zhou. In 2004 the Government recognized him as official Bishop of Fengxiang, without adhering to the Patriotic Association.  On January 6, 1996, Monsignor Li consecrated Monsignor Peter Zhang Zhiyong Coadjutor Bishop of Fengxiang, who in 2010 retired from the office due to sickness, without ever being succeeded.

In October of 2005 Pope Benedict XVI invited him to the Vatican, along with three other Chinese Prelates, to take part in the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, but he didn’t receive the authorization of the governmental authorities. The Prelate always defended firmly the doctrinal principles of the Catholic Church, opposing the undue meddling of politics in ecclesiastical questions, maintaining, however, openness to dialogue and to mediation.

The priests and faithful remember him with esteem and gratitude for his fidelity to the Successor of Peter, demonstrated even in moments of trial, and for his tireless commitment in favour of the local Church. Monsignor Li is succeeded as Coadjutor by H.E. Monsignor Peter Li Huiyuan, whom he himself consecrated when he was then ninety years old. The funeral Mass was celebrated in the parish of Tiefeng on November 25. His mortal remains were buried on the same day in the Cathedral of Fengxiang. Today the diocese of Fengxiang has some 23,000 faithful, some 40 priests , 20 Minor Franciscan Religious and about 100 Sisters.

Monsignor Matthias Yu Chengxin, Coadjutor Bishop Emeritus of Hanzhong, in Shaanxi, Continental China, died on Thursday, December 7, 2017. He was 89 and had been sick for some time. Monsignor Yu was born on February 28, 1928 in the village of Yujiawan, district of Hantai, in the province of Shaanxi, in a family of solid Catholic tradition. His older brother, H.E. Monsignor Bartholomew  Yu Chengti, who died in 2009, was Diocesan Bishop of Hanzhong, while his only sister, Yu Yongjie, consecrated herself to the religious life. Monsignor Yu Chengxin was formed for the priesthood at the Minor Seminary of Hanzhong, where he entered in 1950, and in the Major Seminary of Kaifeng, where he spent 1956. The Seminary was closed two years later by the “Three Autonomies” Movement.

During the Cultural Revolution he was kept under house arrest and then sent to forced labour. Following the return of religious life in China, he was ordained priest on December 10, 1981. He carried out his pastoral ministry in the areas of Fengjaying, Wangjiabao and Shangyuanguan, where he is remembered as a jovial person, dedicated to the care of the faithful regardless of the sacrifices. On December 12, 1989, he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of the diocese of Hanzhong by Monsignor Li Zhengrong of Xianxian. To foster reconciliation and communion in the diocese of Hanzhong, Monsignor Yu Chengxin never exercised his episcopal ministry. He continued to act as a simple priest all his life and offered his sufferings for the local Church.

In 2007, he was affected by a brain stroke that rendered him invalid. The clergy and the faithful of Hanzhong continued to show concern and affection for him. The funeral Mass was celebrated on December 12 in the church of Xiaozai, in the county of Chenggu: Monsignor Yu Runshen presided over the celebration. All the diocesan priests concelebrated with the participation of a great number of faithful. Today the diocese of Hanzhong has some 43,000 faithful, some 40 priests and two women’s Religious Congregations.

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