[From the obituary of the recently deceased Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe of the Catholic Diocese of Yongping, the People’s Republic of China.]
“Bishop Paul was born in 1920 in Huanghuagang and entered a minor seminary in 1931 and then a major seminary in 1939, where he began his studies in theology and philosophy. Paul was ordained a priest in 1945 and was sent to do pastoral work in Lulong and Tangshan in the Diocese of Yongping. When the communists took power in China they eventually formed the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which took away the power of the Pope in Rome and gave the government state supervision over mainland China’s Catholics.
It was during this time that Fr Paul was imprisoned three times for his Catholic Faith and loyalty to the Pope in Rome. In 1970 Fr Paul was then sent to a re-education camp and forced to work first in a textile factory, then in a chemical plant and finally in a stone quarry. Fr Paul was released from this camp after 9 years and he continued his pastoral work in a new setting. He then accepted being ordained as a Bishop in 1981 by the state controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This meant that his ordination as a Bishop was not accepted or recognised by the Pope and he was thus excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by this action.
After a while Bishop Paul began to realise the error of his way and deeply regretted going against the wishes of the Pope and putting himself outside of the unity of the Church in Rome.
In an act of humility Bishop Paul then made contact with the Pope and expressed his sincere apology, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation, requesting the legitimisation of his role as Bishop in union with the Church in Rome. It was Pope Benedict who in 2008 accepted the apology and re-established Bishop Paul’s full communion with the successor of St Peter and the Church in Rome. Bishop Paul retired from active ministry in 2010 due to failing health and always refused to take part in any activities of the state controlled Chinese Patriotic Association as a sign of communion and obedience to the Pope. Bishop Paul died recently just before his 93rd birthday.
The experience of Bishop Paul reminds us of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the unity of the Church:
‘The Pope, Bishop of Rome, and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful… The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor’ (sections 882 & 883).”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”