Xiwanzi - At least 5000 believers, under the snow and polar temperatures (- 30 °), yesterday morning attended the funeral of Mgr. Leo Yao Liang, coadjutor bishop of Xiwanzi, who died on 30 December. Bishop Yao spent 30 years in prison for not joining the Patriotic Association. From 2006 to 2009 he was again arrested by the police for the same reason.
People participated in the mass despite prohibitions and restraints by public security which for days has stopped people from outside the county coming to town and take part in the funeral. As the bishop was an underground pastor, he was not recognized by the government, thus local authorities obliged no use of Episcopal insignia in the Church ceremony, and to refer to the deceased prelate only as "Pastor Yao" not "bishop Yao". But at the time of burial in the cemetery of Xiwanzi, and in the days leading up to the funeral, the faithful always prayed for " bishop Yao”. According to witnesses, during the burial one of the faithful inserted the Episcopal insignia of the bishop into the coffin.
The ordinary bishop of Xiwanzi, Mgr. Hou Jinli, 93, being very sick, could not attend the funeral. Out of about 15 priests of the diocese, only 3 were allowed to celebrate mass.
A woman who attended the funeral of the bishop, told AsiaNews: "All the faithful loved Mgr. Yao for his dedication to God and the Church. He often told us that his greatest suffering during the long years of imprisonment were not the hard, physical labour, but the pain of not being able to lead his flock".
Sobbing with emotion, she says, "Bishop Yao was a really great personality. We all want to follow in his footsteps and continue his work, especially finish the construction of the church". Months ago Mgr. Yao blessed the first stone of a church in the town of Xiwanzi and its completion was one of his greatest desires.
To clear the path many local faithful shovelled the abundant snow fall of recent days all the way from the church to the cemetery (10 min walk), to ease the path of the coffin.
The faithful say there has been no message of condolence from the Vatican. So far, the Osservatore Romano has not published any obituary about the deceased bishop.
Bishop Yao was born in 1923, he was ordained a priest in 1948 and from 1958 to 1984 he was jailed for his refusal to join the official Church. The Patriotic Association is a control body of the Communist Party, which wants to build a Church independent from the Holy See. Bishop Yao became underground bishop coadjutor in 2002. He was seized by police in July 2006 and was able to return to his church January 25, 2009, after 30 months of captivity. His body was buried in the cemetery for priests in Xiwanzi.
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