Monday, January 15, 2007

Oldest Bishop in China returns to the Lord

Recently, a dedicated and committed servant of God and of the Holy Roman Church returned to His Lord and Master whom he had faithfully served as a priest and bishop for more than 80 years. The local Church in Penang, Malaysia, is proud to be connected to this holy and faithful Bishop.

Mgr Joseph Meng Ziwen, Catholic Bishop of Nanning (Guangxi)

Apparently, Bishop Joseph Meng was trained in the College General Major Seminary here in Penang and studied Theology here for 6 years before going back to China for his ordination in Nanning. China, in 1935. The College General was the seminary in the Far East for many years training priests from all over the region including China, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Borneo, besides Malaysia. Among the alumni who have been raised to the glory of the altars are St. Phillip Minh and companions who were among the martyrs of Vietnam canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and Sts. Jacques Chastan and Laurent Imbert, professors of the seminary and part of the Korean Martyrs who were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988. St. Jacques Chastan was also formerly a priest of my parish of the Immaculate Conception.

I’m sure the good bishop would have been horrified to discover that the hallowed halls of the seminary in which he and numerous other saints and martyrs walked and were formed to take up his role as an alter Christus is now a huge shopping mall, the seminary having been transferred to the former retreat house of Mariophile due to dwindling vocations and other major seminaries sprouting up in the region.

Anyway, pls join me in praying for the soul of Bishop Joseph Meng, that the Lord may reward his faithful servant and welcome him into paradise.

From via Zenit:

Underground bishop, a “humble but extraordinary pastor”, dies at 103
Mgr Meng, underground bishop of Nanning, was the country’s oldest prelate. For Fr Giancarlo Politi, missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and a China expert, the prelate led a life till the end with “out of the ordinary vitality” despite spending 25 years in a laogai camp. Bishop appointments are increasingly becoming a problem with little “chance of solving the issue in the near future.”

Rome (AsiaNews) – He was a “humble but extraordinary pastor who was dedicated to his community and had out of the ordinary energy and vitality,” said Fr Giancarlo Politi, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and a China expert, as he remembered Mgr Joseph Meng Ziwen, bishop of Nanning (Guangxi), who passed away last Sunday at the age of 103 as a result of a liver tumour. He was the oldest prelate in the whole of China.

Father Politi told AsiaNews that the bishop “was someone who up to three years ago still said mass every Sunday in three different parishes without sparing himself.” His coadjutor, Mgr John Baptist Tan Yanchuan, will celebrate the funeral tomorrow.

Born into a non-Catholic family on March 19, 1903, in Hengling, Bishop Meng was baptised as a youth. When he was 18 years old he spent eight years at a minor seminary. After studying six years of theology and philosophy at the major seminary in Penang, Malaysia, he was ordained into the priesthood in Nanning in 1935.

After the Communist revolution he was accused of collaborating with the Kuomintang and sent to a laogai (reform through labour) camp in the early fifties and released in 1957.

Upon his release that year, he resumed work at a church in Nanning, where, thanks to his medical training, he set up and ran a clinic, but was re-arrested the following year charged with helping the enemies of the Revolution. He was eventually released in 1970.

In the 1980s, Bishop Meng was able to reclaim some Church property and rebuild churches. He recruited young Catholics as nuns and seminarians to help in evangelisation work. “Bringing Christ to the world” remained his lifelong goal.

He was ordained bishop by the Holy See in 1984, but the Communist regime refused to accept his appointment. To avoid problems for his community he always signed diocesan papers as a simple priest. For his parishioners, he was affectionately known as lao shenfu, the old priest.

Father Politi remembers that the prelate “always led humble life. Although he could not call himself bishop he was always relatively free to move around Guangxi to visit small Christian communities and lived quietly. Here, there never were any of the open clashes with the Church as elsewhere in China”. The recent arrests on December 27 of nine priests in Baoding, in the central province if Hebei, are an example of this open conflict.

Bishop Meng’s death follows the passing of four official bishops, all in the last month. Whether official or not, prelates are getting older and the tense situation between the Patriotic Association (which seeks to control appointments) and the Vatican have made new nominations a thorny issue for the whole Church in China.

Father Politi is quite pessimistic about the future. “I can’t see any chance of solving the issue in the near future. The Communist Party only wants to maintain its power and thus must maintain the status quo”.

Yet, even though Sino-Vatican relations, “the life of the Church in the country is growing despite everything,” he said.

Do pray for the Church in China.

For Bishop Joseph Meng

Réquiem æternam dona ei,
Eternal rest grant unto him (her), O Lord.
Et lux perpétua lúceat ei. And let perpetual light shune upon him.
Requiéscat in pace. May he rest in peace.
Amen. Amen.
Anima ejus, et ánimæ ómnium fidélium defunctórum, per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Amen. Amen.

O Lord, give us many more good and faithful priests in your servant, Bishop Joseph Meng.


Anonymous said...

Had he been to the Father before? Surely it is only the Son who has done that.

Great blog, foregive the pedantry.

Andrew said...

Thanks for visiting, anonymous, and for the stimulating comment.

It is God who creates the soul and infuses the soul into the body during ensoulment.

So, in a way, having been created by God, the soul, upon death, can also be said to return to Him for the particular judgment, and then, being internally illuminated as to their state, of its own initiation takes its course either to Hell, Purgatory or Heaven.

So, perhaps in the case of the faithful Bishop, it would not be too presumptuous to state that his soul, in that sense, has indeed returned to the Lord.

Thanks again for the though provoking comment and do drop by again.

Anonymous said...

errr "ensoulment"? are you suggesting that at conception there is no soul, that somehow it is given sometime later?

Andrew said...

Thanks, Mike, for your comments.

Ensoulment is the process by which the immortal soul in infused. The Church has always taught that human life begins with ensoulment, that God’s infusion of an immortal soul is what separates humans from other lifeforms. The point at which ensoulment occurs has been the subject of some debate. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that it was at four months. Current magisterial teaching has put it at the moment of conception.

This is quite a complex issue as twins or triplets separate from each other at a later point from conception, so there is a philosophical question on when the soul in infused in such cases. But this in no way alters the Church's belief and teaching of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. I, of course, affirm all the the Holy Catholic Church holds and teaches. =)

The pertinent modern reference occurs in an Instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day or Donum Vitae, issued in 1987, where it states:

[t]he Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature [as to the time of ensoulment], but it constantly affirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception, and therefore from that same moment his or rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.

More on the Church's teaching can be found on the USCCB's site here. and well as the Priests' for Life site, here.

A good overall discussion on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas (Which the Magisterium has, in time, disagreed with)can be found here and James Akin has a good paper out on the topic as well.

Thanks for visiting and commenting, Mike and do drop by again.