Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Atheist crimes

Yesterday the obituary of Bishop Yao of China appeared in L'Osservatore Romano. Originally of the Zhangbei region, Leo Yao Liang was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on the 1st August 1948 at the age of 25. He died on the 30th December aged 86. Almost the whole of Father Yao's priestly ministry was marked by the intense and brutal atheism of the Chinese state.

After his ordination Father Yao worked as an assistant parish priest but was stopped from functioning as a priest and in 1956 condemned to forced labour for the 'crime' of refusing to cooperate in the movement to separate the Catholic Church in China from allegiance to the Pope. For this so-called 'crime' he was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent nearly 30 years in prison. He was ordained a bishop in 2002 but after four years (by now in his early eighties) he was arrested again and spent two and a half years in prison. After his release he was kept under close surveillance by the authorities.

It is a sign of the paranoia of the Chinese civil authorities that after the death of Bishop Yao they banned Catholics from using the title of 'bishop' to refer to him and exhorted them to use the title 'illegal pastor' instead. It seems that in the officially and deeply atheistic state of China some things have not changed.

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