Bishop who helped rebuild church in northwest China dies at 91

Hong Kong — Bishop John Baptist Ye Ronghua, who led the rebuilding of the Catholic Church in northwest China’s Ankang region, has died at the age of 91.

Ucanews.com said Ye died on Aug. 28 from age-related ailments.

Ye served as Ankang Diocesan Administrator from 1987 to 2000. He was ordained as the first bishop of Ankang in 2000.

Ye was born on June 6, 1931 in a Catholic family. He studied in seminars run by the Italian Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and graduated from the Kaifeng Major Seminary in 1958, ucanews.com reported. His ordination to the priesthood was delayed due to political movements directed against the Church.

The Chinese Communist Party launched a socio-political movement called the Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976. Ye, not yet ordained, was branded a counter-revolutionary and forced into a labor camp for “re-education.”

Finally, in 1982, at the age of 51, he was ordained a priest after China’s religions were allowed to revive.

During the Cultural Revolution, church property was confiscated, churches destroyed and few priests left.

Bishop Anthony Li Du’an of Xi’an began administering Ankang in 1988. Over a period of 11 years, he ordained nine priests, restored three churches and opened two clinics, ucanews.com reported.

He also ordained Ye as the first Chinese bishop of Ankang on December 10, 2000. The new bishop was recognized by the Chinese government and the Vatican.

Despite his poor health, Ye continued to rebuild and revitalize the local church with a small Catholic congregation. The prefecture often suffered from financial problems.

Most Catholics in the area are farmers, workers, and small business owners, and many people are unemployed and retired. Many families barely earn enough to support themselves and have little financial support for the Church.

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