Father Joseph Chen Gong’ao
Father Joseph Chen Gong’ao will be ordained Bishop of Nanchong diocese in south-western Sichuan province on Thursday.
The ceremony will very likely be a repeat of another Episcopal ordination in neighboring Yibin diocese last November when Fr Paul Lei Shiyin attended in bishop’s garb despite the Holy See having excommunicated him.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi later denounced his presence.
When asked by ucanews.com if he would attend the Nanchong ordination, Fr Lei said yesterday, “Why should I not go? This is the same question as before [for the Yibin ordination] and my answer is the same.”
It is “a normal and natural practice” to congratulate and support each other whenever dioceses in the province hold big events, said Fr Lei, the head of government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) in Sichuan.
Bishop-elect Chen, 47, enjoys a reputation for his creativity in evangelization and being a good priest. He was approved by the pope in 2002 but his election as bishop candidate took place in 2010.
Bishop-elect Chen is diocesan administrator of Nanchong
and rector of the Sichuan Catholic Seminary. He also serves as a committee member of the national CPA and is chair of Nanchong city’s CPA.
A source said Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan in northern Hebei province, who has taken part in illicit ordinations, but has received pardon from the Holy See, will be the main celebrant.
Several Vatican-approved bishops from neighboring dioceses are expected to concelebrate. One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said he is not sure who will participate at the ceremony, as it is “inconvenient to ask.”
When told Fr Lei will be there, he said, “I cannot intervene. Chen is a good friend of mine, so I will go to congratulate him.”
An anonymous source close to the Vatican warned that if Fr Lei does turn up he will harm the unity of the Church and harmony in society.
“This year is important as it will see a change in the Chinese Communist Party leadership. Fr Lei should not make the current situation worse by acting against Church law and the wishes of Catholics. There are other ways to congratulate a new bishop other than participation,” he said.
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