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Shanxi seminary to close for two years

Board is replaced in bid to restructure and improve operations

Shanxi seminary to close for two years
Montecorvino Major Seminary in Shanxi province reporter, Taiyuan

January 11, 2013

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The embattled Montecorvino Major Seminary in Shanxi province, embroiled for years in internal leadership disputes, will suspend operations for two years while operations and staffing are reorganized, according to local Church sources.

Bishop John Huo Cheng of Fenyang, the school’s former board chairman, announced the closure on Monday.

“The 11 final-year seminarians will be allowed to continue their studies until their graduation this June, but younger ones have to leave after the first semester,” said one seminarian from the school that asked not to be named, adding that the semester ends today.

The seminary, located in the suburb of Taiyuan city, currently has an enrollment of 28 students.

Local Church sources said the decision to close the seminary was made during a meeting convened by Shanxi province’s Religious Affairs Bureau a day before the public notification.

During that meeting, it was agreed by the heads of eight of the nine dioceses in the province that the school would close for two years, and that an ad hoc committee of diocesan heads would replace the disbanded seminary board.

Coadjutor Bishop Paul Meng Ningyou of Taiyuan has been named to oversee remedial measures to reform the seminary, the Church sources added.

“I feel distressed about this outcome, but it seems that we don’t have a better choice,” said one committee member who spoke to on condition of anonymity.

“The seminary’s current situation is far from satisfactory. There is no rector or spiritual director. Only two residing priests maintain routine operations,” the committee member said.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs is to conduct an evaluation of the seminary, including the qualifications of its academic staff, financial status, the sourcing of students and library collections over the next two years.

If in that time the seminary meets all established standards, it will be allowed to recruit new students and resume operations, the committee member added.

Montecorvino, established in 1985, has in recent years suffered disputes among its leadership.

The board dismissed Father Anthony Chang Tongxi, who became the school’s fifth rector in 2009, for alleged malpractice and poor management in 2011, despite pressure from provincial authorities to allow him to stay, local Church sources said.

In September of the same year, the semester was postponed for more than two months, after which 50 of the 70 seminarians returned to classes, while the rest transferred to other institutions.

Since that time, Montecorvino has had trouble recruiting new students.

“We will return to our respective dioceses and wait for new arrangements,” said another seminarian that also asked not to be named.

“If not, then the Taiyuan seminary will help us to transfer to other seminaries.”

The seminarian added that while he understood the bishops’ constraints over the school, he was disappointed at the outcome.

“The bishops seem to do things in their own way and rarely attend to the seminary,” he said.

But another seminarian said he supported the move. “It is good for the seminary to improve its infrastructure,” he said, adding that he will return after the problems are fixed.

A formation center for religious nuns, which operates inside the seminary campus, will not be affected by the closure and will continue to operate.

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