An underground bishop has been openly installed in northwest China in a ceremony that some diocesan priests and parishioners avoided attending because they were unsure of its validity. Bishop Joseph Han Zhihai of Lanzhou in Gansu province was openly installed at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Nov. 10. Open church Bishop Yang Xiaoting of Yulin in Shanxi Province presided over the ceremony along with open church Bishop Han Jide of Pingliang of Gansu and open church Father Zhao Jianzhang, Apostolic Administrator of Tianshui. Bishop Han said via social media that "the Holy See is pleased to see such result." The message was purportedly sent out for the benefit of his diocesan priests. However, Father Paul of Lanzhou told ucanews.com that some of Bishop Han's diocesan priests refused to attend the installation since they were not convinced the message was accurate.
Among 38 priests from Lanzhou Diocese, 12 who did not attend the installation included priests studying abroad, Father Paul said, adding that in total 46 priests, 47 sisters and more than 300 Catholics from Lanzhou, Pingliang and Tianshui attended the ceremony. Government officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the United Front Department from Lanzhou likewise attended. "Some people might have come from the public security authorities as well but they were not in uniform," Father Paul said. Father Paul said he believed Bishop Han's installation is "good for the development of the diocese." Only 300 people joined the installation ceremony of Bishop Joseph Han Zhihai at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lanzhou. (Photo supplied) Not accepting bishop's installation
A priest, who does not agree with Bishop Han's installation and did not attend the ceremony, told ucanews.com, that some parishioners he serves also could not accept the bishop's installation. They said the bishop would have to get close to the state-run Chinese Patriotic Association (CPA), an organisation designed to control the church in China. The CPA has no ties with the Vatican and it is shunned by most of the country's estimated 12 million Catholics. The CPA is also accused of corruption by Catholics. The priest himself questioned the installation. "Did the Holy See let the installation happen? Or did the government ask for the installation? These two things are totally different," the priest. He emphasized that according to the Code of Canon Law, "whoever has been promoted to the episcopacy must receive episcopal consecration within three months from the receipt of the apostolic letter and before he takes possession of his office." "Being a bishop for more than a decade and only being installed until now, it is certainly not in compliance with the law of the church," he said. Another priest, who did not want to reveal his name, was concerned that if Bishop Han follows government policy too closely it would polarize the diocese. The day after his installation, the bishop took nearly 80 priests and nuns of Lanzhou, Pingliang and Tianshui to visit the former communist revolutionary base in Jinggangshan which is between Jiangxi and Hunan. Secretly consecrated
Bishop Han was secretly consecrated in 2003 and had not officially been recognized by the government until the recent installation. Although he was not recognized by the government for many years, some parishioners and priests questioned his participation at training classes to learn the "spirit" of the National Religious Affairs Conference
in June 2016. The five-day workshop was run by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA)
for Catholics. China observers believe the workshop was a further sign of the Communist Party inserting itself into church's affairs after the National Conference of Religious Work's and the SARA's response to an inspection by the Party's anti-corruption watchdog
, which criticized the administrative body's loose control on national religious groups. More than 150 people, who are members from the bishops' conference, the Catholic Church Administrative Commissions and national and regional CPAs, including several illegitimate bishops, attended the training class.
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...