China's Bishop Xiwanzi Dies at 95

Served "Underground" Church, Endured Forced Labor

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GONGHUI, China, MARCH 10, 2011 ( An "underground" bishop in China died on Ash Wednesday, at the parish church of the town where decades ago he endured a forced labor sentence.

Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli of Xiwanzi, in the northern Hebei province, died at Gonghui village church at the age of 95. He had just received the anointing of the sick.

Police have blocked the roads leading to the village so that the faithful cannot pay their final respects.

In China, religious practice is only permitted by the government with the oversight of the Catholic Patriotic Association, the organization through which authorities recognize religious personnel and register places of worship. Hence there is a "national" or "official" church, directed by the Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

According to sources cited by UCANews, Bishop Hao's health had deteriorated last month, but police did not allow him to be taken to the hospital.

"He had suffered hardships with Jesus Christ throughout his life and will resurrect with him too,” one of the sources said.

Catholic family

Andrew Hao Jinli was born into a Catholic family in 1916 – his two brothers were also priests – and ordained in 1943. Fifteen years later, he was imprisoned for his faith, receiving a 10-year sentence. Then he was sent to Gonghui for "reform-through-labor." Upon his release in 1981, he returned to serve as a parish priest.

He was clandestinely ordained as a bishop three years later.