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PRIEST IS ORDAINED AS THE ONLY CHINA-APPOINTED BISHOP IN HENAN PROVINCE

Updated: November 18, 1993 05:00 PM GMT
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The newly ordained bishop of Kaifeng diocese is the only China-appointed bishop in the government-sanctioned open Church in Henan province, central China, and the first to serve in the province since 1986.

Father Han Daoyi, 73, was ordained bishop on Nov. 7, filling the episcopate left vacant by China-appointed Bishop He Chunming of Kaifeng who died in 1986.

Kaifeng city is 620 kilometers southwest of Beijing.

Anthony Liu Bainian, vice director of the government-approved episcopal commission of Church affairs, told UCA News Nov. 10 that Father Han was elected Sept. 23 to head Kaifeng diocese and is assisted by four priests.

Father Han was teaching theology at the central and southern regional seminary in Wuchang, Hubei province, in 1990-92, Liu said.

The priest, a popular lecturer, left the teaching post and returned to Puyang, where he had worked as a parish priest throughout the 1980s, because of a serious shortage of priests there, according to the seminary rector, China-appointed Franciscan Bishop Benedict Dong Guangqing of Hankou.

The bishops´ conference transferred Father Han, formerly administrator of Puyang, to head Kaifeng diocese, Bishop Dong said, as the open Church had no bishop in Henan.

According to various Catholic sources in Henan, whether or not to have China-appointed bishops in Henan has long been a difficult question for many Catholics there. Many Church affairs -- like reclaiming Church properties -- require a bishop with a relationship with the government.

At the same time, at least five clandestinely-ordained bishops live in Anyang, Kaifeng, Luoyang, Shangqiu and Nanyang and are influential in both the open and the underground Church communities, the sources said.

Many clerics insist on papal approval, not government authorization, for episcopal ordinations, the sources explained, but the Church is not free to have direct ties with the Vatican.

Priests in Henan say they are fulfilling and maintaining pastoral ministry to Catholics and fidelity to the pope and to the "loyal Church" -- not recognized by the government, the same sources noted. Yet, Catholics in Henan are aware that they do suffer from having no government-approved bishops.

With a government-approved bishop, some matters would be more easily handled and that would help Church development in Henan province, a priest of Zhengzhou diocese told Hong Kong Catholics earlier this year.

"Since we have no bishop, we have to follow instructions from the Catholic Patriotic Association, which is a tool of the Chinese government," he said.

The episcopal ordination of Father Han was presided at by China-appointed Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide of Jinan and Zhoucun, head of the government-approved bishops´ conference, at the Immaculate Conception Church in Beijing.

The two co-ordainers were China-appointed Bishops Michael Fu Tieshan of Beijing and Yu Chengcai of Nantong (Haimen). China-appointed Bishops James Lin Bingliang of Guangzhou and Tu Shihua of Hanyang also attended the ceremony.

Born in 1920 in Qingfeng county, Henan, Bishop Han was ordained a priest in 1947 after priesthood formation in Jingxian, Hebei province, and in Beijing where he studied at the then Fu Jen Catholic University in 1949.

In 1954, he graduated from the Chinese language faculty of Beijing Normal University, which had incorporated Fu Jen, and returned home to serve Catholics. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), he took up pastoral work again as a parish priest in Puyang, northern Henan, in 1980.

According to the Annuario Pontificio 1992, Henan province has eight dioceses -- Kaifeng, Luoyang, Nanyang, Shangqiu, Xinyang, Weihui, Zhengzhou and Zhumadian -- and the apostolic prefecture of Xinxiang.

END

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