|Father Joseph Shi Liming|
The tombstone of an underground priest killed along with six seminarians in a car crash in December was destroyed by police yesterday as part of official attempts to ban a requiem service marking his 100-day death anniversary.
Government officials in Jinzhou and Baoding in northern Hebei province warned the local Church on Sunday not to mark Father Joseph Shi Liming’s death, according to local sources.
The priest of Baoding diocese’s “underground” community, who was 39 when he died, was killed in a road accident on December 11. Six of seven seminarians he was traveling with also died when their minivan collided with two trucks.
Fr Shi’s tombstone, with the words “the grave of Fr Shi Liming” carved upon it, was scheduled to be erected on his grave yesterday in his hometown in Damaquan, in Zhaoxian county.
However, county police officers turned up to take the tombstone away. When his family tried to stop them, the officers smashed the tombstone with a sledgehammer.
They said later that Fr Shi “was not recognized by the government and that it is unlawful to erect a tombstone denoting him as a priest,” the sources said.
Only his family and some Catholics living in the village were able to pray at his graveside. Police stationed around the village prevented people from other areas attending the requiem service.
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