Bishop who suffered 10 years of forced Chinese labour dies at 98

A Chinese underground bishop who made world headlines in February has died.

The 98-year old Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu hit the headlines in February for being the oldest person to recover from coronavirus (COVID-19).

His eventful life spanned massive social and political changes which saw him arrested and imprisoned more than once.

He survived years of imprisonment for continuing to practice his faith and religious ministry in the face of Chinese government opposition.

The Holy See acknowledged the deaths of Zhu and two other underground Chinese bishops emeriti (Joseph Ma Zhongmu and Andrew Jin Danyuan) in a communiqué last week. All three were over the age of 90 and had lived through some of the most tumultuous periods for the Church in China.

Zhu was born in Pushan, Henan, in 1921, at a time of extraordinary growth of Christianity in China. This was also the year the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai.

He enrolled in a seminary in the mid-1940s, but was unable to be ordained to the priesthood until 1957 – well after the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949.

In the years after the People’s Republic of China was established, Zhu was among many Catholics arrested and cruelly mistreated for opposing government efforts to eliminate foreign influence and nationalise private schools.

Pope Pius XII highlighted their suffering in his encyclical Evangelii praecones in 1951:

“Our heart is overwhelmed with grief when we think of the hardships, suffering and death of these our beloved children.”

In 1964 Zhu was sentenced to three years of forced labor because of his faith. When he was released in 1967 he conducted ministry in secret in his hometown.

In 1981 he was arrested again and sentenced to 10 years of forced labour as an “anti-revolutionary” for taking Catholics on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.

When he was released in 1988, Zhu was allowed to resume parish ministry. Pope John Paul II appointed Zhu as coadjutor bishop of Nanyang in 1995, and he was ordained in secret. In 2002 he became the ordinary underground bishop of Nanyang until he submitted his retirement to the pope in 2010.

Zhu’s funeral was presided over by Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang. Lugang is the first underground bishop to be publicly accepted by the Chinese government. His public acceptance followed the 2018 China-Holy See agreement on the appointment of bishops.



Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: ,