Bishops pose for a photograph after the public installation of Bishop Paul Ma Cunguo of Shuozhou on July 9. He is the fifth underground bishop to be recognized by the state-sanctioned after the Vatican and China signed a deal in September 2018 on bishops' appointments. (Photo supplied)
The state-sanctioned Catholic Church in communist China has approved and installed another underground bishop loyal to the Vatican but Catholic leaders were not fully informed about the move, church sources said.Bishop Paul Ma Cunguo of Shuozhou was installed at a public ceremony in Shanxi province on July 9. He is the fifth underground bishop to be recognized by the state-sanctioned church since the Vatican and China signed a deal in September 2018 on bishops' appointments.Bishop Ma, 49, was installed as bishop in the cathedral of Shuozhou Diocese in a ceremony presided over by Bishop Meng Ningyou of Taiyuan, director of the provincial Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), the state-sanctioned church. Father Yang Yu, deputy secretary-general of the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), read out the conference's approval.Bishop Wu Junwei of Yuncheng, director of the provincial Church Affairs Committee (CAC), and Bishop Ding Lingbin of Changzhi, deputy director and secretary-general of the provincial CAC and provincial CPA, attended the ceremony. However, the ceremony was a low-profile affair and the Vatican was not fully informed about it.A participant seeking anonymity told UCA News that the ceremony was attended by about 20 priests and 100 faithful from Shuozhou Diocese, representatives of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and BCCCC, and leaders from city, district departments, the provincial CAC and CPA and plainclothes police.The reduced number of participants was attributed to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only those tested negative for the virus the day before the liturgy could attend, the participant said.UCA News learned the Vatican was not fully informed about the developments. Bishop Ma told UCA News that he was not aware of its details because his information was limited because of epidemic restrictions.However, Bishop Ma said the date and liturgy of the ceremony were decided by the two provincial councils of the CAC and CPA.
Bishop Ma told UCA News that he had no opinion regarding his change from the underground to the open church.When asked why he wanted to join the open church, Bishop Ma said: "It's not easy to do some of the work without going open."