Father Paul Liang Jiansen, 46, was ordained Bishop of Jiangmen today, making him the first new bishop in China this year. He is also the first bishop ordained with both papal approval and government recognition after China-Vatican relations cooled in late 2010 after Beijing ordained an illicit bishop and convened the National Congress of Catholic Representatives. The episcopal ordination was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Jiangmen city, southern Guangdong province. The new bishop invited his seminary classmates – Bishops Joseph Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou, Joseph Liao Hongqing of Meixian (Meizhou) and Paul Su Yongda of Zhanjiang, all from Guangdong – to be the consecrator and co-ordainers. Bishops John Baptist Li Suguang of Nanchang, John Baptist Tan Yanquan of Nanning, Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen and about 40 priests also concelebrated the Mass. Priests and laypeople from neighboring Hong Kong and Macau dioceses were also present. The cathedral accommodated 400 people, while another 1,000 sat in the courtyard. As all seating was ticket only, hundreds of faithful who did not have tickets watched the liturgy via television screens outside the church compound. Kwun Ping-hung, a Church-in-China expert, said this “dual-approved” ordination has conveyed a positive message, but “in light of current China-Vatican relations, we should not over-interpret it as a sign of warming ties.” Both sides still hold different view over selecting and appointing bishops, which may be reflected in the near future or through other incidents, he noted. Jiangmen diocese currently has one bishop, seven priests and 26 nuns serving nearly 20,000 faithful, who are spread over 24 counties and six cities. The diocese is a special place in the history of the China Church, as two pioneering Jesuit missioners left an impression here. Bishop Liang said his coat of arms bear the images of Saint Francis Xavier and Father Matteo Ricci, and expressed his aim to model himself on them. Saint Xavier arrived on Shangchuan Island in 1552, but died months later while waiting to enter the mainland. His tomb there is a famous pilgrimage site in Jiangmen. Father Ricci first spent six years (1583-1589) in Zhaoqing in the northern part of today’s Jiangmen diocese, where he built a church and prepared for his mission to mainland China. Bishop Liang said the two great missioners inspired him to put greater effort in spreading the Gospel, as many local people have not heard about Jesus yet. Due to a shortage of religious vocations, he said will make it a priority to train lay leaders to share the burden of priests and nuns in catechesis and evangelical work. Bishop Liang entered the seminary shortly after he was baptized in 1985. He became a priest in 1991 and has served in Jiangmen parish since 1995. He was appointed as vicar general in 2004 by his predecessor Bishop Peter Paul Li Panshi, who died in 2007. CH13793
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