Msgr. Zong Huaide, bishop emeritus of Sanyuan, has died

He was 99 years old, but for the Chinese – who also count 9 months of gestation – he died at 100. He spent 14 years in Shaanxi forced labour camps. Secretly ordained bishop in 1987, he came out of hiding in 1992. In 1997 he met Pope John Paul II. A sweet and dedicated figure, loved by both official and underground Catholics.

Rome (AsiaNews) – A 8 pm on January 5, Msgr. Joseph Zong Huaide, bishop emeritus of Sanyuan (Shaanxi) died. He was 99 years old, but for China – where the 9 months in the womb are also counted – he was 100 years old.

The diocesan announcement states that he now “rests in the arms of the Lord after a life of prayer and charity, at an advanced and joyful age and without disease”.

Msgr. Zong was one of the first bishops secretly ordained by the Holy See to have passed to the official Church. For at least 14 years he suffered a sentence of forced labour in several Shaanxi camps. With a sweet and dedicated personality, he was loved by both official and underground Catholics. Social media is full of memories and praise of his testimony.

Bishop Zong was born on June 16, 1922 into a long-time Catholic family, the fourth of five children (three older brothers, one younger sister) in a poor village in Wuguanfang, Sanyuan County. In 1935 he entered the minor seminary of Tongyuanfang and in 1948 he studied theology. Ordained a priest in 1949, he was parish priest in Fuping and Tongyuanfang, later becoming administrator of the diocese. From 1961 to 1965, banned by the political authorities from exercising his priestly ministry, he retired home to work the land. In 1965 he was arrested and in 1966, in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, he suffered a sentence of “reform through labour”, working in forced labour camps in Sanyuan, Xian, Baoji, and Yanan. In February 1980 he was released and returned to work as a priest in Tongyuanfang.

According to diocesan sources, in 1985 he was secretly appointed bishop of Sanyuan and secretly consecrated in 1987. Mgr. Zong, however, always affirmed that in order to make the Church grow seminaries and acess to formation were paramount. Perhaps this is why he sought to be recognized as the official bishop of Sanyuan in 1992. On 23 December 1997 he managed to make a trip to Italy where he was received by John Paul II. In 2003 the Holy See accepted his resignation.

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