Waylaid bishop misses funeral

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am

An underground Catholic bishop in Heilongjiang was unable to preside over the funeral of his predecessor, also unrecognised by Beijing, after being waylaid by provincial officials.

Joseph Wei Jingyi said he was given permission to leave Harbin for the diocese of Qiqihar yesterday morning and missed the afternoon funeral of Bishop Emeritus Guo Wenzhi.

'The government did not want me to preside at Bishop Guo's funeral because such a big ceremony would have had some impact on society and they thought they would lose face because of it,' he said.

The Qiqihar diocese, which has about 60,000 followers, is regarded as underground because it refuses to recognise the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Bishop Wei said that on Wednesday afternoon up to five staff from the provincial religious and united-front bureaus visited the diocese's headquarters in Hali village, a 30-minute drive from Qiqihar.

'They asked me to go to Harbin with them,' he said. 'They shouldn't have asked me to go away when the old man could have died at any time. But I had to go because we needed to settle the funeral issue - Bishop Guo said he wished to be buried rather than cremated,' he said.

Bishop Guo died on Thursday night. Bishop Wei said the hastily arranged funeral robbed followers of seeing the late Bishop Guo for the last time while AsiaNews reported last night that the simple funeraly did not befit a bishop.