Aleteia provides an overview of some recent 21st-century martyrs.
4) China: “Living martyrs”
They were “living martyrs.” In 2017, numerous bishops and priests of the Catholic Church in China have died, after suffering tremendous persecution and many years of prison or forced labor.
Bishop Sylvester Li Jiantang, who had been the bishop of Taiyuan, died on August 13 at the age of 93. He had been imprisoned for 14 years (1966-1980) in a forced labor camp, according to a report from Asianews.it. After being ordained a bishop, he dedicated a large part of his efforts to re-launching the seminary of his diocese. The local government reacted by closing the seminary in 2013.
Bishop Paul Xie Tingxzhe, bishop of Urumqi, in Xinjiang, died on August 14, at the age of 86. Towards the end of the 1950s, when he was no more than a seminarian, he was imprisoned for refusing to form part of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is controlled by the communist regime.
He was compelled to do forced labor for nearly 20 years (from 1961 to 1980). After being freed, he was ordained to the priesthood, and in 1991 he was consecrated as a bishop in secret. He was very active in announcing the Gospel on the internet. He also led chat groups where he taught Latin hymns to his friends.
On December 7, Matthias Yu Chengxin, bishop coadjutor emeritus of Hanzhong (in Shaanxi) died at the age of 90, according to a report by Asianews.it.
He entered the seminary in 1956, which was closed two years later, going underground. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) he was first kept under house arrest, and then was submitted to forced labor in a concentration camp. He was secretly ordained a bishop in 1989.
On June 9, Bishop John Liu Shi-gong died at the age of 89. He was the bishop of Jining in Inner Mongolia, in continental China. Ordained a priest in 1956, he was subjected to forced labor during the Cultural Revolution.
Bishop Casimir Wang Milu of Tianshui (Qinzhou), in the Gansu province, passed away at the age of 74 on February 14. He had spent much of his episcopal ministry in jail. He had been ordained a bishop clandestinely in 1981. In 1983, the authorities put him in jail for 10 years.
The lives of clandestine bishops in China still continues to be extremely difficult, as some of them continue to be deprived of their freedom.
Such is the case, for example, of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, who has been under house arrest since 2012, because at his episcopal ordination he announced that he was abandoning the Patriotic Association controlled by the government.
Another example is the case of Peter Shao Zhumin, Bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), who has been in police custody for eight months. On September 11, the bishop was seen in the Tongren hospital in Beijing for an ear operation. In a message sent by Wechat, he asked the faithful to pray for him, but not to visit him, due to security issues.
The cases of priests who have been deprived of their freedom in China are yet more numerous. They are authentic “living martyrs.”