According to local sources, the prelate died in Shaanxi, aged 77. Secretly ordained in 2005 as coadjutor of Mgr Liang Xisheng, who passed away two years later, Bishop Gao was never recognised by Chinese authorities. The “official” see of the Archdiocese of Kaifeng (Henan) has been vacant since the death of its illegitimate bishop in 2001. Home to PIME missionaries until they were driven out by communist persecution, its history goes back a long way.
Mgr Joseph Gao Hongxiao, a member of the Order of Friars Minor and “underground” bishop of the Archdiocese of Kaifeng (Henan Province), passed away last night at his home in Meixian, his native district in Shaanxi province, this according to Catholic sources in mainland China.
Fr Gao Hongxiao was ordained coadjutor bishop on 1 January 2005 by his predecessor, Mgr John Baptist Liang Xisheng, with a mandate from the Holy See. When the latter passed away at the age of 84 on 27 September 2007, Bishop Gao became the legitimate successor under Canon Law; however, since he was not recognised by Chinese authorities, it was hard for him to carry out his ministry.
Catholics remain split between the “official” and the “underground” communities in Kaifeng, a very important see in the history of Henan Catholicism.
Since 2007, when he took over, Bishop Gao became its only bishop since the Church bodies controlled by the Communist Party of China had left the see vacant after the death in 2001 of Mgr Stanislaus Han Daoyi, a priest appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained bishop in 1993, without papal authorisation.
This difficult situation reflects the experience of suffering by the Catholic community in Kaifeng, home to communities of “cross worshippers”, as they were called, probably established by Nestorian missionaries in the first millennium, whose existence became known to the outside world after the arrival of Matteo Ricci…CHINA ‘Underground’ Bishop Gao of Kaifeng dies