Hong Kong — Bishop Thomas Zhang Huaixin of Anyang, who only accepted government recognition on the basis that he did not have to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, died May 8. He was 90.
Ucanews.com reported that Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin, 45, automatically succeeds him, according to canon law. The young prelate was the first Chinese bishop with dual approval from China and the Vatican since 2012.
Due to the elderly Bishop Zhang's stance, when Zhang Yinlin was ordained in 2015, all bishops involved in the ceremony were Vatican-approved; there was no pressure to allow an illicitly ordained bishop to take part, as has happened at some other episcopal ordinations in China.
The late bishop was lauded as a teacher and role model for Chinese Catholics.
"I was most impressed by his teaching on money and women," Fr. Li Jisheng of Anyang told ucanews.com. "He used to remind us clergy that there will be no problem with our clerical life as long as the ledger is clear, having little desire on wealth, and keeping a distance from women."
The funeral Mass for Zhang Huaixin will be celebrated in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Anyang May 14.
"The late bishop had suffered from diabetes and a heart problem for years. He was rushed to hospital on May 6 after he complained of dizziness," Li said.
The priest said he visited Zhang Huaixin the day before he died, showing him archived photos of him as a young seminarian.
"He had a clear mind when we visited him on May 7. ... He could recognize his classmates and the seminary rector," he said.
Zhang was born May 23, 1925, and was ordained in 1950. He was deemed a "rightist" by the government in 1958 and suffered for his faith during the political turmoil that lasted for decades until 1978.
After his government rehabilitation in 1980, he was secretly ordained bishop of Anyang the following year and lived and worked without government recognition.
In 2004, once he was certain he could accept government recognition without joining the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, he agreed to be openly installed as bishop, AsiaNews reported at the time.
Anyang Diocese now has 30 priests and 129 nuns from St. Joseph Convent; they serve 50,000 Catholics.