Fifteen Chinese bishops cancel trip to Belgium

Organizer says delegation told that forum clashed with National Communist Congress in Beijing next month
Fifteen Chinese bishops cancel trip to Belgium

Bishop Ma Yinglin (center) visited the Verbiest Institute in August and met with Father Jeroom Heyndrickx (right). (Photo by www.chinacatholic.cn)

Fifteen Chinese bishops have cancelled a trip to Belgium to take part in a pastoral forum next month, saying it was "not convenient" as the dates clashed with the 19th National Communist Congress.

Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, former director and founder of the Verbiest Foundation, said the trip to attend  the Verbiest Institute at Leuven University from Oct. 15-19 was cancelled at the request of the bishops.

He said the reason given was that the bishops' visit would have taken place at the same time as the week-long National Communist Congress in Beijing which starts on Oct. 18.

"From an independent and well-formed source, they learned that bishops would not be allowed to go aboard during that time," Father Heyndrickx said.

Father Heyndrickx said negotiations were already under way to reschedule the event, with the same agreed-upon list of bishops participating.

The Verbiest Institute issued a press release on Sept. 8, saying the trip had been approved after negotiations with the Chinese government on the forum to discuss the Pastoral Directory for Bishops published by the Holy See.

"This was agreed upon, as well as the list of 15 bishops to participate in the session. The 15 bishops are all legal," said Father Heyndrickx. 

However, a church source who asked not to be named, said that during the discussions an additional list of bishops was put forward, including five legal ones and one illegal bishop. The list was dropped but it is not known why, the source said, adding he was not sure whether the cancellation of the trip by the other 15 bishops was really related to the National Communist Congress.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, president of the Chinese Bishops' Conference and an illegal bishop of Kunming not recognized by the Vatican, visited the Verbiest Institute in August.

Father Heyndrickx said Bishop Ma's trip had nothing to do with the 15 China bishops attending the October forum.

"We discussed with him more exchange and cooperation in the academic field in the future," the priest said. "We believe that more co-operation and exchange in the academic field is possible."

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