Catholics believe authorities controlled the service so as not to give publicity to Nanyang Diocese

UCA News reporter

Updated: May 12, 2020 02:51 PM BKK

The body of Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang is placed near his residence before his funeral on May 9. (Photo supplied)

Officials of the communist government in China imposed restrictions on the funeral of 98-year-old Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang.

Officials allowed only 40 people to attend the May 9 funeral in Henan province. They also restricted the movement of people and banned parishioners from taking photographs of the service.

Bishop Zhu died on May 7 of an age-related illness.

His successor Bishop Pietro Jin Lugang officiated the funeral service with Bishop Zhang Yinlin of An Yang in the same province.

Bishop Zhu was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of Nanyang Diocese at the age of 73. He became bishop of Nanyang on Nov. 21, 2002, at the age of 81.

He was imprisoned by communist authorities and suffered “reform through hard labor” for nearly 20 years after his ordination as a priest in 1957.

The authorities now act as if the diocese does not exist and therefore did not want to give any news about the death of the much-respected bishop, said a parishioner who sought anonymity.

Parishioner John said diocesan clergy negotiated with the government to hold a public funeral but eventually the government allowed the funeral while restricting participants to 40.

The government did not allow the diocese to hold a solemn funeral for Bishop Chu, nor did anyone from outside attend it. The restrictions, they said, were part of limiting crowds as a measure against spreading the coronavirus.

But John said the government controlled the funeral, with plainclothes police among the people present.

Government officials did not allow parishioners to take private photos and videos. Mobile phones were confiscated or pictures deleted. However, officials allowed two people to use cameras. One was from the parish but the other was unknown to parishioners.

John said the diocese had done what officials wanted. It did not release detailed information on the bishop’s death and did not invite people to the funeral. “But they still exercised control. Is this what they wanted — to let our aged bishop go quietly like this?” John asked.

He said taking pictures had “nothing to do with the epidemic. Officials may be afraid that our photos will give away information. But it’s not like the bishop’s funeral is a secret, unless they have some other plans in their mind.”

Bishop Jin, who succeeded Bishop Zho, is the first underground bishop publicly accepted by the Chinese government since the Vatican and China signed an agreement in September 2018 on the appointment of bishops.

When Bishop Jin was installed on Jan. 30, officials controlled the number of people at the event and did not allow photographs, just as they did this time.

Nanyang Diocese has more than 20 priests, about 50 sisters and more than 20,000 Catholics.

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