The “official” bishop of the Diocese of Hangzhou, Bishop Matteo Cao Xiangde, in the province of Zhejiang in China died over the weekend. He was 93
The prelate was one of the bishops appointed without the papal mandate during the 2000 crisis between Beijing and the Vatican, said a report on AsiaNews.
In September 2004, Bishop Cao Xiangde asked the Holy See for legitimacy, which was granted him on June 8, 2008, but without jurisdiction.
Bishop Cao Xiangde was born on Sept. 16, 1927, in Tongzhen, in the new area of Pudong, municipality of Shanghai.
He entered the Wensheng Regional Seminary of the Lazarists in Jiaxing in 1950 and in 1952 he moved to Beijing.
In 1954, during the rise of the Chinese government to power, the future bishop continued his studies and pastoral work in Haimen (Zhejiang).
He was ordained priest after the Cultural Revolution in November 1985. He then served in the cathedral of Hangzhou, one of the oldest churches in China.
On 25 June 2000, Bishop Cao Xiangde was elected and ordained bishop “democratically” by Bishop Yu Chengcai, official bishop of Haimen, despite the Holy See’s exhortation not to proceed.
Bishop Cao Xiangde participated in the Catholic Patriotic Association and the so-called Chinese Bishops’ Conference, the two bodies through which the Chinese Communist Party controls Catholic communities.
He became president, and later honorary leader, of the Patriotic Association and the Ecclesiastical Commission of the province of Zhejiang. He was also president of the city’s political consultative conference.
Due to his advance age, he retired to the hospice in Wuyunshan. On June 25, 2020, he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his episcopate together with the clergy and civil authorities of China.
In its official obituary, the Chinese Communist Party said that “all his life [the bishop] has always loved the homeland and the Church, upholding the principles of the autonomy, independence and self-administration of the Church, serving it with fidelity and zeal, in a humble and modest way; he fulfilled his duties responsibly and served society.”