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Thousands mourn Shanghai's 'underground' bishop

Published on Mar 22, 2014 3:01 PM
 
Priests pray for the late head of the underground Catholic Church in Shanghai, Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, at a funeral home in Shanghai on March 18, 2014. Thousands of mourners packed a Shanghai square on Saturday, March 22, 2014, to bid farewell to "underground" Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang whose faith, they said, led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Thousands of mourners packed a Shanghai square on Saturday to bid farewell to "underground" Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang whose faith, they said, led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party.

Fan, who was imprisoned for much of the last two decades and spent his final years under house arrest, died last Sunday at the age of 97 after several days of high fever, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a Roman Catholic organisation.

China has a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican's authority, as well as an "underground" church. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.

"I came here to bid farewell to our bishop," said a woman in her 60s who gave her name only as Clare and who was among a throng of mourners gathered outside the funeral home where Fan's body was laid out.

 
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