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Thousands defy police to attend Chinese bishop's funeral

The funeral of Beijing "underground" Bishop Matthias Pei Shangde, was attended by five thousand people, according to eyewitness accounts.

The event, which took place yesterday in the village of Zhangjiapu in Hebei province, lasted three hours. Police had warned that no outsiders would be allowed to attend, and there were blocks on all access roads.

A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that 200 to 300 people were present for the funeral. But according to eye witnesses there were at least three thousand inside the church and another two thousand outside.

The homily was given by a priest of the official, government recognised Church who praised Bishop Pei's efforts to promote reconciliation between the underground and official communities of the Church in China.

Other sources inform Fides that the funeral took place without any disturbance, despite strict police control. Bishop Pei died on Christmas eve in hospital under police surveillance, being confined to house arrest. Since then, an endless line mourners had come from all over China to Zhangjiapu village to pay their last respects.