Seven dioceses to ordain elected bishops

Updated: 2011-07-22 07:43

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - At least seven dioceses on the Chinese mainland will ordain their elected bishops when "conditions are right", a leading bishop said.

Joseph Guo Jincai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, told China Daily that local churches are preparing for the consecrations of the bishops-designate in the seven dioceses.

Seven dioceses to ordain elected bishops

Guo, 43, is also the bishop of Chengde Diocese in Hebei province. He did not provide a timetable for the ordinations because preliminary work is "complicated and involves various parties".

Candidates for bishop have to submit applications before the local commission of religious affairs gives its approval for the ordination ceremony. Meanwhile, bishops from other dioceses have to coordinate schedules to attend the ceremony, the bishop said.

In the latest ceremony, Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained in Shantou city, Guangdong province, last Thursday, after three other bishops were appointed this year.

The Vatican, in response, excommunicated Huang and said he had been appointed "illicitly".

Zhuo Xinping, director of the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the Vatican rarely responds in such a manner.

He told China Daily that Sino-Vatican relations may have plunged to their lowest level since the 1950s.

"There have been occasions when China carried out ordinations without papal approval, but 'to excommunicate a bishop' is rare," he said.

Relations, already fragile, took a turn for the worse in November, when Guo was ordained and later promoted to vice-chairman of the association. Guo was the first bishop appointed by the association without papal approval since 2006.

Association spokesman Yang Yu, however, defended the appointments of bishops without Vatican approval, saying that they were for the "survival of the church". The association hopes to improve relations with the Vatican, he said.

Yang, from the Beijing Diocese, was appointed spokesman for the association in June, the first in its history, as it endeavors to show a more open approach.

At least 40 out of the 97 Catholic dioceses on the Chinese mainland currently do not have a bishop, which has hindered the spreading of the Gospel for an estimated 6 million believers, he said.

Bishop John Fang Xingyao, chairman of the association, told China Daily earlier that the election of bishops and their consecration are priorities.

He said that the association encourages dioceses without bishops to elect their spiritual leaders.

Yang said some dioceses are preparing for the ordinations which follow strict procedures.


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