A priest kisses the ring of the illicitly-ordained Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan (Internet photo)
In southwestern Sichuan province, Leshan diocese today ordained Father Paul Lei Shiyin without a papal mandate in the presence of about 1,000 guests and government officials at the Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Emeishan city.
Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), was the main celebrant.
Meanwhile, in northern China, Coadjutor Bishop-elect Father Joseph Sun Jigen of Handan has not returned to the diocese since he was taken away forcibly by security officers three days ago.
The diocese posted on its website today a notice to demand the return of Father Sun and a letter to the government protesting against its interference in their ordination.
Since yesterday, some Catholic websites and blogs have been warned to delete posts and comments related to the recent ordinations.
In Leshan diocese, six other participating prelates were Bishops Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia, Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, Joseph Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng, Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou (Wanxian), Paul Xiao Zejiang of Guizhou (Guiyang) and Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan. They all laid hands on the new bishop's head.
All of the consecrators are Vatican-approved. They have previously participated in other illicit episcopal ordinations, except for Bishops Xiao and Li Jing.
This was the first case since the Holy See issued a declaration on the correct application of the canonical penalty of excommunication for unapproved bishop ordinations (canon 1382) on June 11.
Bishop Lei, 48, told ucanews.com he can personally obey the Church unconditionally but he also has to consider the fundamental interests of the local Church.
“I wrote a letter and answered enquiries from Rome a year ago. I did what I needed to do and have waited for a long time,” he said.
The local Church cannot give up the opportunity of evangelization. “I hope you can understand that we have to consider the Church’s survival and development. We have no way out and cannot sidestep this issue but must work according to the reality,” he stressed.
When asked about rumors about his moral conduct, Bishop Lei said, “I don’t believe, read or spread rumors. I don’t fear speculation but do not wish to be speculated about.”
In Handan diocese, since yesterday morning, plainclothes police have been stationed at all road junctions leading to the Caozhuang church where the ordination was originally scheduled to take place today.
“Many priests and faithful who knew nothing about the situation gradually arrived at the church last evening, but the number of plainclothes police there was probably greater,” said a Church source.
The police dispersed the people in the church compound, causing tension. Church workers advised the people to leave the church for safety, but visitors from outer dioceses were anxious about where to go.
Catholics across China have called for fasting and prayer for intercession of Saints Peter and Paul for the Church in China in the light of the news of the two ordinations.
Some doubted if they still have religious freedom and asked how they can trust the country’s policy. “I heard Leshan diocese is also ordaining a bishop on the same day. Why can they do so but we cannot?” said one.
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