The underground bishop, who the government had exiled in a remote mountain village, was a strong point of reference for the official and underground faithful. Despite being persecuted, he asked the faithful to follow the laws of the country. Devoted to the Virgin Mary, he founded an institute of nuns and was very careful to cultivate vocations to the priesthood. “His every word and action is a model for us and will remain in history for a thousand years.”
Tianjin (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Stefano Li Side is “the ripe fruit of the Spirit”: his death on the eve of Pentecost is no accident. This is how an official priest of the Church of Tianjin expresses himself, commenting onthe death of his bishop, last June 8,with whom he often visited in the village where the government had exiled him. “The intent of the authorities – says the priest – was to take the bishop to a place that was distant and difficult to reach, so no one could go there. The truth is quite different: since the bishop resided there, the number of faithful who visited him increased day by day “. Msgr. Li was much loved by both official and underground believers.
A priest of the underground Church, instead speaks of Msgr. Li’s “heart”: his Marian devotion and his evangelizing work, attentive to the mission of the Church and to the birth of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Meanwhile, news has arrived of the bishop’s funeral, held in the funeral parlor where the body was displayed (see photo 1,2,3), and not in the cathedral of Tianjin. In all the prayers he was not defined as a “bishop” (the Patriotic Association refused to recognize him as such), but only as a “pastor”. Not even his tombstone will bear the word “bishop”, but “pastor” (see photo 4)
This morning while I was away from home, I read the news that Bishop Stefano Li Side returned to the Father at 11.20, on Father Pu’s blog. My only thought at that moment was to return home as soon as possible.
Tomorrow the Church will celebrate Pentecost, and tonight there will be a vigil: God has called His servant at exactly the right time.
The Spirit promised by Jesus has already arrived, the Church was born, the faithful servants who lived intensely in the Church are precisely the ripe fruit of the Spirit. The fight is over, the race is won, Jesus is now raising His apostles.
Beginning in the 1990s, Bishop Li was forced under house arrest in Liang Zhuangzi village, north of Mount Panshan in Ji Zhou province, until his death. During all these years he could go out only to go to the hospital, accompanied of course [by the police]; immediately after his recovery, he was escorted to his home in the mountains.
In the village of Liang Zhuangzi there is a church and Bishop Li lived there for over 30 years. The intent of the authorities was to take the bishop to a distant place, difficult to reach so that no one could go there. The truth is quite different: since the bishop resided there, the number of faithful who visited him increased day by day. Despite numerous obstacles, faith has never slowed down its steps.
The name of Liang Zhuangzi is famous thanks to Bishop Li. In the year of our priestly ordination we visited the bishop to obtain the mandate to confess. We also went to the mountains for the Chrism Mass, and often – after parish work – the faithful who wanted to visit the bishop came with us.
Today when I received the news about his death, I have in mind only a short poem, and after having published it on the blog I realize that there are some changes to be made, but I don’t want to delete it and republish it, so I added some verses.
He remains firm in its faith, despite life in the mountains,
the small flock does not fear distance or difficulties.
He brings distant men together to announce their faith to them,
In life he carries on the faith in silence.
(On June 8, 2019 the bishop of the Diocese of Tianjin Li Side Stefano returned to the Father, news read on the blog. The poem and the mass tonight are in memory of him).
Throughout his life, our father, Bishop Stefano, venerated Our Lady, especially the Sacred Heart of the Mother of Jesus. He always encouraged the faithful to live in the love of the Mother of Jesus, so that on 7 October 1994 he founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of the Mother of Jesus. The bishop was also very careful to cultivate male vocations, and over the years accompanied many young priests. Moreover, he was also involved in the pastoral care of the laity, creating for the faithful the “House of love”.
In his life, he observed a rigid self-discipline, putting the love of God into practice, adoring and glorifying the Lord, entrusting himself completely to the Mother of Christ. He led a poor life and was always humble and kind, generous towards people and entirely dedicated to the service of the Church. He always invited the faithful to respect the laws and help the poor.
Despite his poor health, he never forgot prayer and did everything possible to be able to celebrate mass. The life of the bishop was marked by many vicissitudes, but he never complained. Despite his illness, he always accepted everything, because he knew perfectly well that the Way of the Lord is not at all easy. Because of his illness, the bishop was called by the Lord on June 8, 2019 at 11.24, at the age of 92.
The faithful servant of Christ, the chosen custodian, followed the path of the apostles and never gave up before violence. As a bishop and guardian, he has devoted himself to the glory of the great mission. Tributes and affection for his dedication come from all over the world. Devoted to the Virgin Mary, a wise teacher and a good friend, he followed the teachings of Jesus the Savior, living in brotherly love. He has never written books or biographies about himself: the silence of his life is worth a thousand words. His every word and action is a model for us and will remain in history for a thousand years.