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FIVE BISHOPS ORDAINED ON EPIPHANY DAY, LARGEST BATCH SINCE 1987

  • China
  • January 06 2000
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The government-approved "open" Church in China ordained five bishops without Vatican involvement Jan. 6, the largest batch since 1987.

The move came on the same day as Pope John Paul II´s ordination at the Vatican of 12 bishops from around the world.

The newly ordained China bishops are Bishops Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan, 39, Jin Daoyuan of Changzhi, 71, Lu Xinping of Nanjing, 36, Su Changshan of Baoding, 74, and Zhan Silu of Mindong, 39.

The ordinations took place at Beijing´s Immaculate Conception of Our Lady Cathedral, also known as Nantang (south church).

Bishop Liu Yuanren of Nanjing, president of the Bishops´ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, was the ordaining bishop, with Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan of Beijing, chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), as co-ordainer.

Bishop Fu told the congregation that the ordination reflected China´s prosperity and that the development of the Church in China has to keep pace with the development of country.

Bishops Tu Shihua of Hanyang, Yu Chengcai of Haimen, Luo Juan of Shuozhou, Paul Jiang Taoran of Shijiazhuang, Liu Jinghe of Tangshan and about 30 priests concelebrated the ordination Mass. All the bishops laid their hands on and embraced the newly ordained bishops.

Representing the new bishops, Bishop Zhan told the some 300 participants in the liturgy that they thanked God for giving them the chance to serve the Church and that the ordination was an exciting moment in their priestly life.

Families of the new bishops and priests, laypeople and Religious Affairs Bureau officials from their dioceses and localities traveled to the capital to join the liturgy despite freezing weather of minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Security was tight at the beginning of the Mass, with more than 10 uniformed police stationed outside the church. The liturgy drew a crowd of foreign correspondents, who had to register at the church entrance.

Anthony Liu Bainian, CCPA vice chairman, told UCA News Jan. 6 that he had learned about the Jan. 6 ordinations at the Vatican only two days earlier.

Asked if the ordinations took place too hastily, Liu replied that he thought not and said that many Chinese bishops are of advanced age and the bishops-elect had been named for some time.

Four of the bishops were elected in the last quarter of 1999. Only Bishop Jin was elected earlier, in 1998.

Liu also said that he did not think the new bishops in their 30s were too young, noting that the China Church lacks priests in their 40s and 50s.

The CCPA vice chairman had said Jan. 3 that five to six bishops would be ordained Jan. 6, but on Jan. 4 he revised this and said that only bishops-elect Zhan, Su and Lu would be ordained. Other Church sources, though, told UCA News that five bishops would be ordained.

Liu explained that because some bishops-elect had to travel far from their dioceses to Beijing and their train tickets were not confirmed, he was not sure if they could make it for Jan. 6.

The list was finalized in the last two days, he said later.

A Church notice at Nantang invited parishioners to join in the Mass for five ordinations.

Meanwhile, some China-Church watchers described the ordination, made without the approval of the pope, as a "confrontation" of the Vatican and an obstacle to the progress of Sino-Vatican relations.

Father Chen, dean of studies at Sheshan seminary in Shanghai, told UCA News Jan. 6 that the ordination of priests in their 30s as bishops is a "natural development process" of the Church since many existing bishops are aging.

However, he said that this brings joy and worry -- the joy being that the young priests can bring dynamism and development to the Church, and the worry being that they could be unprepared spiritually and academically.

Bishops Zhan and Lu are graduates of the Sheshan seminary.

END

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