by Bernardo Cervellera
Msgr. Shi, 93, underground bishop of Yixian (Hebei) was arrested April 13, 2001, a Friday, in the home of his niece in Beijing and held in an unknown location without trial or charge. In all these years family members regularly asked authorities for some news of their relative, but they never got any response. On January 30, an employee of the city of Baoding, the village chief of Shizhuang, questioned again by family, let slip that the bishop had died.
Speaking to UCANews agency, the niece of the bishop, Shi Chunyan, said: " We are now waiting for the prelate, whether it be his body or ashes, to be returned to Shizhuang, our hometown, before we decide what to do next." To date, however, the corpse of the bishop has not been handed over.
Meanwhile, across China news of the death of Msgr. Shi Enxiang has spread, mourned as a "martyr" and as "a saint", who has spent more than half his life in prison because of his fidelity to the Catholic faith and to his bond with the Pope. The Catholics of Yixian had been discussing how to organize the funeral which would have been attended by thousands of people across the country.
Then, there was a turn of events a few days ago. Since there seemed to be a delay in the return of the corpse (or ashes) of the bishop, the family members of the deceased went to find out more from the Baoding council, which replied that it knew nothing about the death of Msgr. Shi and that "the village mayor [who broke the news of the death] was drunk, or heard or understand wrong..."