.- Over 3,000 people attended the funeral of beloved 79-year-old Bishop Antonio Changfeng Zong of China, who died on Nov. 22 after struggling with a long illness.
The Nov. 29 funeral Mass drew three bishops and forty priests among the thousands who commemorated the life of Bishop Zong, leader of the Kaifeng diocese in northwest China.
Bishop Zong was born into a devout Catholic family in the city of Xingping in the Diocese of Zhouzhi on September 13, 1932.
At the age of 12 he entered St. Johnâs Seminary in Wugong Puji and later studied philosophy and theology at the seminary of Fengxiang and Xiâan.
Because of a difficult political situation in the region, he was forced to return home, where he worked in agriculture and brick-making. However, he continued to feel called to the priesthood and patiently waited for the day of his ordination.
On May 29, 1979, at the age of 46âand after waiting 34 yearsâhe was ordained a priest and sent to work at various parishes in the Diocese of Zhouzhi.
After 20 years of service as a priest, he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Kaifeng in 1998. He retired from ministry in 2008 and lived with his cousin in the town of Nanyue.
Vatican-based Fides news reported that during his life, Bishop Zong endured numerous difficulties to build thirteen local churches. He also lived simply and with great pastoral zealâqualities that drew many Catholics in the area to attend his Masses daily over the decades.
At the conclusion of his funeral on Nov. 29, a procession carried Bishop Zong to the cemetery of the parish in Nanyue where he was buried.