This past Saturday, the first bishop to be named by the Communist government to the Patriotic church, Dong Guangqing, passed away in the province of Hubei. His death comes just one month after the death of the top leader of the Patriotic Catholic Association in China, Bishop Fu Tieshan of Beijing, who was appointed by the government in 1979 without Vatican approval.
Dong Guangqing, 90, was ordained bishop of the diocese of Hankou in 1958 by the Patriotic Catholic Church of China, which is controlled by the Communist government and operates independent of Rome. Dong was also president of the Patriotic Catholic Association of Wuhan, vice president of the National Administrative Committee of the Chinese Catholic Church and a member of the Chinese University of Catholic Bishops.
The deaths of the two bishops leave open the question of whether Beijing will continue to maintain a posture of confrontation with the Holy See, deepening the divisions between the minority “patriotic church” and the growing underground Catholic community, or put an end to the division of Catholics in China.