Bishop Joseph Chen Gong’ao of Nanchong is ordained during a ceremony at Sacred Heart of Jesus cathedral
Bishop Joseph Chen Gong’ao was ordained today as the bishop of Nanchong
diocese and made a pledge to strengthen formation and promote new evangelization. The 47-year-old prelate, the first Chinese bishop to be ordained this year, was approved by the pope and is recognized by the Chinese government. He told ucanews.com that his priority is to enhance the quality of priests, seminarians and nuns so that “the diocese’s evangelistic work would be developed in a more systematic manner.” Bishop Chen added that he would organize more training for lay people, especially catechists. Citing the coming 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Chen said he hoped to open up new avenues for evangelization by bringing priests and lay catechists into full play to spread Catholic teachings that were integrated with Nanchong’s local culture. Also a priority for the new bishop is the construction of a new cathedral to replace the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, which was damaged in the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and which he said was too small to accommodate all Catholics for large-scale activities. About 800 people packed Sacred Heart to witness the ordination, while a few hundred others watched a live broadcast at a pilgrimage site five kilometers away because of insufficient space in the cathedral. Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan presided over the ceremony, concelebrated with Bishops Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia and Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou, and Co-adjutor Bishops Paul Xiao Zejiang of Guiyang and Peter Luo Xuegang of Yibin. Eighty-seven priests from in and outside the province also attended the ceremony. Excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan wearing bishop’s garb joined the Vatican-approved bishops in the laying of hands during the liturgy. Bishop Chen is the fourth bishop of Nanchong, one of five dioceses in southwestern Sichuan province. Born in 1964, he graduated from the Sichuan Catholic Seminary in 1988 and was ordained a priest two years later. He has presided over diocesan affairs since 2005 and became the seminary’s rector in 2008. Nanchong diocese serves about 86,000 Catholics with one bishop, 11 priests and 11 nuns. Its episcopal see had been vacant since the death of Bishop Michael Huang Woze in 2004.