Bishop emeritus Stefano Yang Xiangtai of Hebei in China died on Thursday, October 14, at a Weixian hospital where he was brought early this week due to “serious health conditions.” He was 99 years old.
“Monsignor Yang showed strong fidelity to the Lord, kindness to all, simplicity of life and constant dedication to his flock, and this for 72 years,” read the announcement from the Diocese of Handan.
“Now that he has completed his journey, we invite clergy, nuns and faithful to pray so that his soul may rest in peace and to intercede for his prompt entry into eternal rest,” it added.
Bishop Yang, who is 99 years old, has been hospitalized for several days due to difficulty in breathing.
He suffered a heart attack in June 2011 upon hearing about the abduction of his successor, Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Sun Jigen. The police took Bishop Sun three days before his ordination.
An AsiaNews report said Bishop Yang is not an “underground” bishop, but he has never submitted to the “patriotism” linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2015, he supported the protests of Wenzhou clergy against the demolition of crosses in churches in Zhejiang province.
Bishop Yang was born on Jan. 3, 1923, (Nov. 17, 1922, according to the lunar calendar) in the village of Gaocun, in a Catholic family.
After attending kindergarten in his village, the future prelate went to Wu’an Catholic Primary School before entering the minor seminary of the Diocese of Weihui.
In 1940, he began his Philosophy and later Theology studies at the Kaifeng regional seminary. He was ordained priest on Aug. 27, 1949. After his ordination he worked as an assistant in the Nanguan church in Kaifeng.
In the spring of 1954, police arrested then Father Yang. He was able to resume his ministry after the trial. In July 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, he was arrested again and was tried in October 1970 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
For his criminal “re-education,” he was imprisoned in the labor camps in Quzhou and later in the Handan brick factory, and finally in the Tangshan salt factory.
After the launch of reforms and opening by Deng Xiaoping, Father Yang was “rehabilitated” and released on March 15, 1980. He was acquitted of all charges.
He then ministered in the districts of Handan, Cixian, Shexian and Wu’an, areas that later became part of the province of Hebei and the official diocese of Handan.
In 1988, he became rector of the diocesan seminary and chaplain of the Congregation of the Consolation of the Holy Spirit.
On Sept. 17, 1999, Bishop Yang became the ordinary bishop of the Diocese of Handan.