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China's young bishops take the reins

Conference head says candidates will be chosen carefully to fill vacant sees

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China
  • By ucanews.com reporter, Beijing
  • China
  • May 19, 2011
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Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, 46, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), said young bishops are now responsible for the day-to-day operations of the “open” Church structure.

Bishops Johan Fang Xingyao and Joseph Guo Jincai, chair and vice-chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), now work with Bishop Ma at the government-sanctioned open Church headquarters in Beijing.

Bishops Ma and Guo are not in communion with the pope. The BCCCC and the CCPA are also not recognized by the Vatican.

After leaders of the CCPA and BCCCC were re-elected in the Eighth National Congress of Catholic Representatives last December, Bishop Ma said they have set many targets and “will work hard in order not to fall short of people’s expectations.”

Priority is being given to the ongoing formation of bishops, priests and nuns, he said.

The two Church authorities recently organized a retreat for priests from dioceses of a vacant see at the formation center adjacent to the National Seminary in Beijing.

They will also hold training courses for nuns who are preparing to take their perpetual vows.

Another task is the selection of new bishops is to fill the vacant sees.

“We will select suitable candidates in a prudent and serious manner according to the Church tradition and the BCCCC regulations,” Bishop Ma said.

When asked about how many bishop candidates will be ordained this year, he said, “it’s hard to tell the exact number as some dioceses are preparing for it while the progress of the others is not clear.”

Tomorrow’s episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Lu Peisen of Yanzhou, eastern Shandong province, will be presided over by Bishop Fang from the same province. He will become the second new bishop this year.

Bishop Ma said he will not attend the ceremony, as he has to return to his diocese in Yunnan province to deal with Church affairs.

Meanwhile, Church observers outside China are concerned that Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po published an interview of Anthony Liu Bainian on May 14, still using his previous CCPA vice-chair title.

Liu, 77, stressed that bishops are ordained to meet the need for evangelization, which is the normal work of the Church. Thus, the China Church “self-electing and self-ordaining its bishops does not require papal approval.”

A Church observer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said there was “no need for Mr. Liu to create tension on an international level. This will not help China.”

“As a Catholic and a loyal citizen, Mr. Liu should know this very well and not to use the Chinese bishops and government for his own interest and low-cost profit,” the observer said.

Bishop Ma refused to comment on Liu’s remark, but said some media outside China “may not understand our latest situation.”

The elderly leaders of CCPA, who became honorary presidents and consulters, have already stepped down after the December congress, though “we sometimes will seek their advice.” he said.

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