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Chinese bishop ordained in public for the first time since 2012

Choristors sing at a Mass in Shenyang, China (Photo: CNS)

A bishop has been ordained publicly in China for the first time in three years – and for the first time since the Vatican and China restarted its dialogue last summer.

Fr Joseph Zhang Yinlin was ordained coadjutor bishop at Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Diocese of Anyang by three Vatican-approved and government-recognised bishops. Bishops not recognised by the Vatican were not present at the ordination, according to ucanews.com.

August 4 was chosen as the ordination date because it is the feast of St John Vianney, patron saint of priests, ucanews.com reported.

According to the website of the Henan Catholic Church, the ordination Mass was concelebrated by 75 priests and attended by about 1,400 people, including 120 nuns.

One Church source said authorities limited participants to 25 people from each of the diocese’s 17 parishes. Another source who attended the Mass told ucanews.com that those who did not have identity cards could not get into the venue.

“The security check is strict as in the airport. We were being checked twice,” the source said, adding that, despite the rain, the government had “hundreds of police and firemen to maintain order.”

A priest who concelebrated said that nearly 500 people were turned away from the Mass by authorities and had to watch the ceremony on TV sets in parish classrooms.

Born in Henan province in 1971, Bishop Zhang studied at the National Seminary in Beijing, 1992-1996.

After being ordained to the priesthood in 1996, he served as vicar general. He was elected as coadjutor bishop on April 29 and was approved for ordination by the Vatican.

Another Vatican-approved candidate for bishop, Fr Cosmos Ji Chengyi of Zhumadian, in the same province of Henan, also attended the ordination. The date for his ordination has not been announced.

The last public ordination occurred on July 7, 2012, when Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was installed as an auxiliary in Shanghai. He had been approved by the Vatican and the Chinese government. Immediately after his ordination, he publicly quit the Catholic Patriotic Association, saying he wanted to devote himself to his ministry.

He remains confined to the compound of Shanghai’s Sheshan seminary and prohibited from assuming his duties as bishop, although he often sends messages about the day’s liturgical readings on his Weibo account.

The government-sanctioned bishops’ conference revoked his coadjutor status, but Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, said even legitimately established and Vatican-recognised bishops’ conferences “do not have the power to name or approve a bishop, to revoke his mandate or to impose sanctions on him”. The Chinese government-sanctioned bishops’ conference, which is not recognised by the Vatican, has even less power, and the decision regarding Bishop Ma “lacks any juridical value”, he said.

On July 10, Bishop Martin Wu QinJing of Zhouzhi had his public ministry restored. The Vatican named him bishop in 2005 and he was quietly ordained. When the ordination was made public in 2007, he was restricted to the minor seminary in Xi’an, although he continued to have meetings with priests and faithful and occasionally was allowed to return to Zhouzhi.