ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: December 02, 2016 11:24 AM GMT
Newly-ordained Bishop Lei Jiapei of Xichang (second left) takes group photo with four other bishops of Sichuan province, including excommunicated Bishop Lei Shiyin of Leshan, seen in the center. (Photo supplied).
An excommunicated bishop has joined in another episcopal ordination in Sichuan province, an event that saw tighter security measures than the previous one in Chengdu two days ago.
Father John Lei Jiapei was ordained Bishop of Xichang by Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi, chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, at the Sanyajie Catholic Church on Dec. 2 with the assistance of Bishops Xiao Zejiang of Guiyang and He Zeqing of Wanxian (Wanzhou).
Four bishops from Sichuan also concelebrated in the ceremony, including the newly-ordained Bishop Tang Yuange of Chengdu and the excommunicated Bishop Lei Shiyin of Leshan.
Bishop Lei Shiyin is rumored to have a girlfriend and fathered a child and was publicly declared excommunicated by the Holy See in 2011. He participated in the episcopal ordination in Chengdu on Nov. 30 much to the dismay of Catholics and the Vatican.
His appearance in Xichang was expected as government officials told clergy in Chengdu that "it was on order from higher state authorities," said a church source.
The local government reportedly allocated 700,000 yuan (some US$100,000) for the ordination in the remote diocese. Stricter security measures were in place with about 400 priests, nuns and laypeople attending.
"There was small scale resistance from some Catholics before the ordination in Chengdu. However, authorities prevented the same thing happening again in Xichang," said the source.
While video cameras, cameras and mobile phones were not allowed as in other ordinations, "this time we were specifically notified that all attendees have to leave behind their mobile phones and could only bring along some pocket money. We also had to go through security checks," a participant who asked not to be named told ucanews.com.
Bishop Lei Jiapei was born in June 1970 and ordained a priest in 1995. He was elected as a bishop candidate in 2010. Church sources in China believe his case was tabled at negotiations in early November.
Rumors alleged that the unpopular new bishop has a "sexual misconduct" issue. He was also infamous among Catholics across China for a sacrilegious act after a 2011 video showed him singing Communist songs on stage while wearing his vestments.
"Lei Jiapei becoming bishop will not not bring any development for Xichang. If the government and the Vatican want him to be bishop, let them do what they want. Everyone has to face God in the final judgment," said a church worker in Xichang, who asked not to be named.
"It is just rumor. If you want to know the truth, you come and see for yourself," the new bishop, told ucanews.com. The 46-year-old bishop said he would lead his diocese in paying importance to evangelization.
Xichang Diocese has 11 priests and 11 nuns to serve 14 church venues and 10 mission stations for 25,000 Catholics in this largest settlement area of the Yi ethnic minority in China.