UCA News

Chinese bishop defuses rumors that predecessor was a cardinal

Bishop John Wang Ruowang did not preside over brother's funeral despite government permission to preside

Chinese bishop defuses rumors that predecessor was a cardinal

Catholics carry underground Bishop Casimir Wang Milu's coffin to the burial ground in Gangu county in northwestern Gansu province on Feb. 18. (Photo supplied)

Published: February 21, 2017 10:38 AM GMT

Updated: February 23, 2017 03:30 AM GMT

An underground Catholic bishop, the brother of another bishop who passed away recently in northwestern China, did not preside over the funeral to avoid endorsing a claim that his dead sibling was a cardinal.

Bishop John Wang Ruowang of Tianshui instead attended the funeral Mass of his brother Bishop Casimir Wang Milu as a family member. Bishop Casimir Wang, also of the underground church not recognized by the government, died on Feb. 14. He was not only Bishop John Wang's eldest brother but his predecessor as well.

Bishop John Wang issued a statement on Feb. 17, saying that even though "the relevant government departments have given permission for me to preside over the funeral according to the church rite," he would only pray and celebrate Mass in private. Father Pan, a priest from eastern China ordained by the late bishop, presided over the funeral ceremony on Feb. 18 that was attended by some 500 Catholics in Gangu county, Gansu province. 

Unknown followers of Bishop Casimir Wang hung several banners outside the late bishop's home days before his funeral emblazoned with slogans such as, "Tribute to Chinese Cardinal Wang Milu's graduation ceremony" and "Cardinal Wang Milu, great knight of China."

A source close to the Wang family said that the banners were disrespectful and insulting to the late bishop. "He was never a cardinal and describing his death as a graduation is too ridiculous," the source told ucanews.com.

"The family did not want to disrupt the funeral and feared that some people might react radically if they took the banners down so they just left them hanging there," said the source.


A white banner hung by unknown people on Feb. 18 reads, "Tribute to Chinese Cardinal Wang Milu's graduation ceremony," stoking rumors the bishop was a secret cardinal. (Photo supplied)


Catholics in both the underground and open church communities across China criticized or mocked the claim that the bishop was a "secret cardinal" as images of the banners spread on social media. It was a dilemma for Bishop John Wang who thought some Catholics may interpret his presiding over the funeral as endorsing the rumor.

"I did not know Bishop Casimir Wang was a cardinal and I think I am not qualified to preside over a Mass or liturgy publicly for a cardinal," Bishop John Wang said in his statement.

"From now on, clergy whom I do not know are not allowed to address themselves as priests of Tianshui nor can they administer sacraments in the diocese," he added.

The Vatican asked Bishop Casimir Wang to retire in 2003 because of a series of controversial acts and concerns about his mental health.

There were rumors that he ordained a Buddhist lama and some men who were either married or without theological formation as priests.

There was also a rumor that Bishop Casimir Wang was claimed as a cardinal more than 10 years ago. The source close to the Wang family recalled that Bishop Casimir Wang denied the rumor when some Catholics asked him to confirm. "Bishop John Wang had also asked Bishop Casimir Wang to issue a statement to clarify the rumor but the elderly bishop thought he did not need to," the source added.

It is not uncommon for the Catholic Church to have "secret" cardinals. Popes in the past have named cardinals as cardinals "in pectore" (in the breast), without making their names public. Vatican-appointed Bishop Ignatius Gong Pinmei of Shanghai, who spent 30 years in prison, was the "secret" cardinal named by Pope John Paul II in his first consistory in 1979.

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