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First mainland bishop ordained in two years

Updated: April 19, 2010 10:50 AM GMT
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Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu (kneeling) during his episcopal ordination
Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu (kneeling) during his episcopal ordination
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HOHHOT, China (UCAN) -- The diocese of Hohhot in northern China welcomed a new bishop on April 18 after five years without one. Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu, 47, was ordained the seventh bishop of Hohhot, based in the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He was the first bishop ordained in mainland China since December 2007. During the ordination at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, Bishop Meng lay prostrate before the altar as the congregation prayed the Litany of the Saints. He then knelt in front of the main celebrant, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, to receive the miter, episcopal ring and crosier. Concelebrating prelates included Bishops John Liu Shigong of Jining and Matthias Du Jiang of Bameng, both from Inner Mongolia, and Bishop Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia, who conducted a three-day retreat for Bishop Meng right before the ordination. Some 80 priests from Hohhot and four other dioceses in Inner Mongolia, who were mostly his classmates and students from the seminary, also concelebrated the Mass. Local Catholics said all the 500 tickets for seats in the church and 2,000 tickets for places in the courtyard were taken up. Many laypeople could not enter the church compound to attend the ordination Mass. Bishop Meng told UCA News April 19 that since the diocese has had no bishop for five years, the priests have become used to managing their parishes in their own way.

Bringing diocesan management back ‘on track’

“I will strive to bring diocesan management back on the right track so that pastoral and evangelistic work will be gradually enhanced,” he said. The bishop received a papal mandate and the approval of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) for his ordination. He was elected as bishop candidate in June 2005, a month after his predecessor Bishop John Baptist Wang Xixian died, aged 79. Bishop Meng recalled that he had endured pressure and difficulties during the five years he has been preparing for his episcopal ministry. His application to the BCCCC had been put on hold during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China last year, he said. Born to a Catholic family, Bishop Meng entered the Inner Mongolia Seminary in 1985 and was ordained a priest four years later. He had taught moral theology and other subjects as well as served as the academic dean until 1999. Bishop Wang assigned him to build new churches and serve as parish priest from 2000 to 2003. He has also taken up leading posts in the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association and Church Affairs Committee of Inner Mongolia since 2001. When Bishop Wang became gravely ill in 2004, he entrusted diocesan affairs to the then Father Meng. Hohhot diocese currently has 21 priests serving 65,000 Catholics. The regional seminary has suspended operation four years ago for want of students but did not officially close down. Seminarians are sent to study in different seminaries across China, Bishop Meng said. Catholicism was introduced to Inner Mongolia in the 18th century. The extensive region, including Hohhot, had been served by missioners of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary until the 1950s. CH09470.1598 April 19, 2010 65 EM-lines (533 words) Beijing recognizes open Bishop of Bameng Choice of bishop candidates needs careful assessment, says CCPA leader Catholics of Ningxia Diocese Overjoyed to Have New Coadjutor Bishop

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