China’s oldest priest dies at the age of 105.
According to media reports, China’s oldest priest, Father Ye Yaomin of Guangzhou, died on Tuesday January 20 at the age of 105. An epic life that spanned the fall of emperors, wars and a Communist Party intolerant of his devout Christians faith was brought to an end. He was in good health until his final few weeks.
Sister Chen Jianyin who had been taking care of him said, Father Ye had recently declined hospital care and food in the apparent knowledge his time was close. “He told us that the Church is his home and he has to die in his home,” she said.
Father Ye passed away in the early hours of Tuesday January 20 after parishioners took him back to the Immaculate Conception Church in his hometown of Foshan, Guangdong province. His funeral is scheduled for Saturday at the church.
Father Ye began his service to the Lord in 1937. He travelled to Hong Kong to study at the Southern China Major Seminary, where he remained for seven years until near the end of the Second World War. He was ordained a priest in Guangzhou in 1948. Only a year later, the Communist Party came into power after winning the civil war and began battering the role of the Church.
In 1955, Father Ye was banished to the deserted central province of Qinghai, where he spent his next years feeding pigs because he was found with news clippings he received from former classmates in Hong Kong and was reported to the Communist party. It wasn’t until 1980 that Father Ye returned to his hometown thus his banishment ended. The Communist Party’s Chairman Mao died four years earlier and the government was about to slacken off its clutches on religion. Father Ye, who was now 70 years old, began preaching in Foshan’s Jiangmen Diocese. Father Ye enthusiastically joined in the effort of rebuilding Churches in China; declined several chances offered to emigrate overseas. “China needs priests,” Sister Chen quoted him as saying.
Sister Chen says, “He was once asked by some people if he hated the Communist Party for his suffering. He said ‘no, hatred is itself a sin’.”
The whole time during his long life, Father Ye was always exceptionally open-handed, giving money to the needy regardless of their religion. “He always said that ‘it’s God’s money, not mine’,” she said. “’He just used my hands to give it out to others.’”