According to the Catholic outlet AsiaNews, headquartered in Rome, Bishop Andrea Han Jingtao, 99, a leader in the underground Catholic Church in China, died Dec. 30. Han Jingtao was the underground Bishop of Siping.
In his early years growing up in a Catholic family, Han received a high-quality formation and education from the Canadian missionaries of Quebec, who ran the apostolic vicariate in his region of China before the communist revolution.
After Mao Zedong took power, the late bishop was sent to a concentration camp where he would be imprisoned for 27 years (1953-1980) "for refusing to participate in the 'independent and autonomous' Church, as Mao Zedong wanted," AsiaNews reports.
Once freed, his command of the English language made him an asset for the communist regime, which conscripted him into service as an English teacher at Changchun University and then at the Northeast University for masters and doctoral programs. According to AsiaNews, "He introduced many Chinese to the study of Classical, Latin, and Greek languages and cultures."
After his academic retirement in 1987, he dedicated his pastoral efforts to the local Legion of Mary and the religious congregation he founded, The Sisters of Mount Calvary.
According to AsiaNews. "He himself recalls that in the 1950s the regime wanted to 'get rid of the pope's interference and expel foreign missionaries. At that time, I realized that the Church was facing a great challenge and needed strong stamina, otherwise the Church would not be able to stand up. This is why I decided to set up a religious congregation.'"
He was secretly appointed bishop of Siping in 1982, but his underground ordination could only happen in 1986.
After being put under strict house surveillance in 1997, he continued to tend his flock under constant threat, convening secret gatherings and encouraging the laity to remain steadfast in faith and charity.
According to recent statistics provided by AsiaNews, his diocese includes some 30,000 Catholics, two-thirds of which belong to the underground Church. It has 20 priests and more than 100 nuns.