ISSN 2330-717X

China: Government Recognizes ‘Underground’ Bishop

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Retired “underground” bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang from central Henan province was installed as a government-recognized bishop today.

The prelate, 90, who was secretly consecrated in 1995 with Vatican approval, spent many years in detention or undergoing reform-through-labor. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation last year.

Catholic sources said Bishop Zhu decided to seek recognition from the civil authorities in order to claim back Church properties that were confiscated during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Nanyang diocese has about 20,000 Catholics scattered in Nanyang city, two districts and 11 counties in southwestern Henan.

Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yan’an, vice-president of the government-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), officiated at the installation ceremony.

Thirty priests from the local and neighboring dioceses concelebrated the morning Mass at the Nanyang Catholic Church. About 50 laypeople also attended.

Bishop Zhu’s decision is not out of personal interest, but for the diocese, one priest explained.

“There are many churches yet to be returned. We can hardly protect our rights and interests [without government recognition].”

With the prelate’s installation, the diocese can now legally claim back property and this will also benefit evangelistic work, he said.

According to Church sources, the Holy See did not know about Bishop Zhu’s move or give any instruction to him.

His decision also didn’t get the backing of all members in his diocese, including Coadjutor Bishop Peter Jin Lugang and almost half the 21 diocesan priests.

They believe religious affairs officials have been persuading Bishop Zhu to seek government recognition.

Some also think ambiguous policy of the Holy See have encouraged this outcome.

Government officials only allowed priests whom they trust to attend the installation. Bishop Jin was forbidden to leave his Church this morning, sources said, adding that they were worried Bishop Zhu’s installation would split the diocese.

Bishop Zhu, a Nanyang-native, was born in 1921. Less than a year after he was ordained a priest in 1957, he was arrested for his faith and sentenced to reform-through-labor. He returned to his hometown in 1967 and began to administer sacraments for Catholics secretly.

He was imprisoned for “counter-revolutionary crimes” in 1981 and was released on parole eight years later. After that he served as a parish priest until he was ordained a bishop in 1995.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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