BEIJING – The Chinese bishop who served in Beijing for more than 25 years was given a funeral for a state leader.
A three-part funeral was held April 27 at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery for Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, 76, who died of lung cancer April 20. The cemetery is the main burial ground for revolutionary heroes and high government officials.
At the time of his death, Bishop Fu was a vice chairman of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, with the rank of a state leader. He also was chairman of the government-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and acting president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.
Funeral services were held in three sessions. The first, beginning at 8:30 a.m., was a memorial service only for members of the National People’s Congress, including its chairman, Wu Bangguo. Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other high-ranking state and social organization leaders attended the second session.
The third session, a Catholic prayer service led by Bishop Pius Jin Peixian of Liaoning, began at 10:30. Fourteen other bishops from various dioceses, about 150 priests and some 2,000 nuns, seminarians and laypeople attended the liturgy. Since the cemetery hall could not accommodate them all, most of the laypeople stayed outside the hall during the liturgy.
When the service ended with Catholics lining up to pay their last tributes to the deceased bishop, some began to sob. They told UCA News they did so because they felt sad to see Bishop Fu, who once had a stocky body and chubby face, look so small and skinny. Some said they missed their kind and warmhearted bishop.
Security was tight in and outside the cemetery. Only Catholics holding an obituary card issued by the patriotic association, the bishops’ conference or Beijing Diocese could enter the hall for the service.
Since Bishop Fu had reached the highest political status among all religious leaders in the communist regime, his coffin was covered with a national flag before the body was sent for cremation.
The ashes of the late bishop’s body were to be transferred to Immaculate Conception Cathedral, also known as Nantang, or South Church, where a memorial Mass was to be celebrated April 28. UCA News reported that the bishop’s ashes would then be kept at the Babaoshan cemetery until renovation of the Catholic graveyard is completed.
Bishop Fu was born in 1931 in Hebei province’s Qingyuan County. After studies in Beijing seminaries, he was ordained in 1956.
In 1979, he became a bishop without Vatican approval. Although some bishops ordained without papal approval later reconciled with the Holy See, in mid-March a Beijing church source said Bishop Fu had not but that “in his mind” the bishop was in communion with the pope.