.- Media and government acknowledgment of two lay Catholics in China suggest an increasing social recognition of Catholics in the officially communist state. An elderly Catholic farmer is up for national honors for his work with the elderly and the homeless, while a Catholic college student won accolades for saving an imperiled young boy at the cost of his own life.
Wang Ping An, a 71-year-old Catholic farmer, was recently named as a candidate for the country’s list of Top 10 People of 2009, Fides reports. He has spent over 23 years taking care of the elderly, abandoned children, and the sick, lonely and disabled. He has welcomed hundreds into his home.
He has cared for 63 elderly people in their last months of life, even organizing their funerals.
In 2000, after taking out a loan, he built a house with 50 simple rooms to provide homes for those in need. He has often cited his Christian beliefs as motivation.
"Jesus taught us 'Whenever you did to this to the least of these my brethren, you did unto me'," he has remarked.
A benefactor sponsored his pilgrimage to Rome in 2007, where he attended the General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. According to Fides, he thought this was the greatest reward of his life.
A commission of major media representatives and a popular on-line poll have named Wang Ping An as a candidate among the “Top 10 People of 2009” who have moved all of China. The award ceremony will be held on Chinese New Year, Feb. 14, and will be broadcast live on China Central Television (CCTV).
A heroic Catholic university student has also won praise.
The 21-year-old John Huang Chuan Ding, of the parish of Nan Guan in the Diocese of Bao Ji, died on Jan. 27 to save a five-year-old boy who had fallen into an icy river.
Attendees at his Feb. 3 funeral included over 3,000 faithful, fellow university students, and provincial and municipal authorities, Fides reports.
The government authorities officially presented him as a model citizen who was “courageous” and “of great moral height.”