China recognizes underground bishop at tightly controlled Mass

First openly installed underground bishop since signing of Sino-Vatican provisional agreement
China recognizes underground bishop at tightly controlled Mass

Robes used by clergy are seen in a room in a Catholic church in China's central Henan province in this photo taken on Aug.13, 2018. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
China
February 1, 2019
An underground bishop in the Chinese province of Henan has become a coadjutor bishop recognized by the government at a ceremony tightly controlled by the authorities.

Underground Bishop Jin Lugang of Nanyang Diocese in Henan province was openly installed on Jan. 30 at St. Joseph’s Church, reported state-run chinacatholic.cn.

He is the first underground bishop to be openly installed since the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement was signed in September 2018.

Over 250 people attended the Mass celebrating the installation including 98-year-old Bishop Zhu Baoyu Nanyang and Bishop Zhang Yinlin of Anyang.

At the Mass 63-year-old Bishop Jin read his oath, saying that “he would assist Bishop Zhu Baoyu to lead all clerics and Catholics in the diocese to comply with the state constitution; safeguard national unity and social stability and solidarity; love the country and love the Church; adhere to the direction on the Sinicization of the Catholic Church in China.”

Official statements noted that the ceremony was approved by the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).

“The inaugural ceremony of Bishop Jin was conducted in accordance with the related liturgical regulations of the BCCCC and was presided over by BCCCC’s deputy president, Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun in Shandong province, while Father Li Jianmin read out the letter of approval issued by the CCPA & BCCCC,” a statement said.

A source told ucanews.com that Bishop Zhu was secretly appointed as Nanyang bishop by the Holy See in 1995. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI approved Bishop Zhu’s resignation due to his then age of 89 and appointed Bishop Jin, who had been secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop in 2007.

However, the source said that in 2011 Bishop Zhu was recognized by the Chinese government as the diocese’s bishop.

Local priest Father John in Henan told ucanews.com that the installation ceremony was highly controlled.

“Those who did not present invitation cards were forbidden to attend,” Father John said. “Participants were not allowed to bring along their mobile phones and take any pictures in the ceremony,” he said.

Another local Catholic who asked not to be named told ucanews.com that government officials including police drove Bishop Jin’s priests and nuns to the installation at St. Joseph’s Church where Bishop Zhu serves and resides.

The authorities also did not allow local Catholics join the Mass fearing they may cause trouble because many did not agree that Bishop Jin should be recognized by the government, the source said.

In a crackdown on religions in the central province, state officials have been removing public symbols of Christianity and seizing unregistered Catholic churches.

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