By UCA News
The scheduled June 29 ordination of Coadjutor Bishop-elect Joseph Sun Jigen of Handan from northern Hebei province has reportedly been canceled due to pressure from the government.
Bishop-elect Sun, whose appointment was approved by the pope, is currently being “looked after” by government officials in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, Church sources say.
Bishop-elect Sun was taken away along with diocesan chancellor Father John Huai Jianting by public security officers as soon as he completed the pre-ordination retreat on June 26 in neighboring Henan province.
They were forced into a police car and when nearing Handan, Father Huai protested and tried to jump off. The officers then transferred him to another police car and sent him back to the diocese. They then proceeded with Bishop-elect Sun to Shijiazhuang alone.
Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai of Handan, 89, suffered a heart attack upon hearing the news. He is receiving treatment at the diocese-run Dazhong Hospital.
The chaotic situation has prompted nuns from the diocesan Mother of Our Lord congregation to begin fasting and take turns in a 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to pray for the diocese.
Church sources say Bishop-elect Sun is in good condition at a guesthouse although government officials accompany him.
The diocese has been resisting the presence of Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde who was ordained without a papal mandate in attending the ordination. Priests from the diocese have insisted on reading out the papal mandate document during the ordination service, sources said. Hence, the government-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Church in China (BCCCC) has not issued its approval so far, they explained.
Illicit ordination in Leshan set to go ahead
Meanwhile, the proposed June 29 episcopal ordination of a bishop without papal mandate has been confirmed for Leshan diocese in southwestern China.
Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) will be the main celebrant in ordaining Father Paul Lei Shiyin.
Bishops Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan and Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou (Wanxian) will be co-consecrators and all priests and nuns from Leshan diocese will attend the ceremony, a priest from Leshan said.
“Father Lei will be a legal bishop under China’s regulation and policy. We hope the Holy See will approve him. Otherwise, the ordination will only be in accordance with the country’s conditions and policies,” he said.
Till today, the BCCCC has not received any obvious objection against the bishop candidate of Leshan, said Father Joseph Yang Yu, spokesperson for the CCPA and the BCCCC.
The BCCCC has conducted extensive research and found that “Father Lei has a firm and devout faith and is highly viewed among his priests and faithful,” he said adding that this makes Father Lei the most suitable candidate as Leshan’s bishop.
However, a Church observer close to the Vatican said earlier that the reason for Father Lei not being approved is very well known to him and to many priests and bishops close to him but declined to elaborate.
Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher of Hong Kong diocese’s Holy Spirit Study Centre, said it is a tragedy that some priests, who do not conform to Church requirements, are supported by government officials to become bishops.
Unlike northern China, which has a strong Catholic background, the Church in Sichuan is under greater government influence as the province has only an ailing elderly bishop that makes it difficult for the regional Church to adhere to a common consensus, he observed.