Chinese Catholics pay respects at funeral of senior bishop

China's Catholic church on Friday held a funeral for its most senior clergyman, Bishop Fu Tieshan, who died of illness at the age of 76.

State leaders Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Zeng Qinghong went to the Babaoshan cemetery in western Beijing to bid farewell to Fu.

More than 10 bishops, 150 priests and nuns and 1,000 followers from across the country paid their respects at the Babaoshan cemetery.

Dressed in his clerical garments, Fu was laid out among fresh flowers and cypress.

The congregation bowed three times before the casket.

Fu, elected as bishop of the Beijing diocese in 1979, was the first bishop ordained by the Chinese Catholic church since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

In a statement released after Fu's death, the Communist Party of China (CPC) called Fu a distinguished patriotic religious leader, a well-known social activist and a close friend of the CPC.

Millions of faithful across the country had held mourning masses honoring Fu. Bishops and priests from other dioceses came to a church in Beijing's Xuanwu District where he had lain in state for seven days, according to sources with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

Fifty young Chinese priests returned to Beijing from the United States, Italy and France after learning Fu's death.

"We pray that Bishop Fu gains eternal peace and happiness in heaven," said Zhang Tianlu, a priest with the Beijing diocese.

Fu was also vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress, vice-president of the Chinese Association for International Understanding, chairman of the CPCA, acting chairman of the Bishops Conference of Catholic Church of China and bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Beijing.

Source: Xinhua

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