Beijing (AsiaNews) – The new bishop of the Chinese capital, Msgr. Li Shan, “has Vatican approval. Now that the ceremony is over we can say this with joy”. This is the comment made to AsiaNews by a catholic source in Beijing, who this morning participated in the solemn ordination of the new prelate. Some Catholics today had complained at the lack of a public declaration by the Vatican regarding the new bishop.
The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Nan Tang (built in sixth century), and was presided over by Msgr. Giovanni Fang Xingyao of Linyi, one of the first Chinese bishops to seek approval from the Holy See. Among the co-ordinants were Msgr. Luigi Yu Runsheng of Hanzhong; Msgr. Zhang Hanmin of Jilin; Msgr. Pei Junmin of Liaoning. There were also some priests and bishops illegally ordained present, among them Ma Yinglin, of the diocese of Kunming; Jin Daoyuan of Changzi and Fang Jianping of Tangshan.
According to AsiaNews sources, “this morning’s ceremony represents a significant change in the government’s attitude towards the appointment of new Chinese bishops. The government concedes a certain type of freedom to our Church, and no longer imposes its own candidates; this is of great comfort to us and leads us to hope that a full and true unity between Catholics, as expressed in the Pope’s letter to the Church in China, can be reached”.
The mass, held at 9.00 (local time), was attended by over one thousand people. Among them government representatives (Zhang Shuxian and Wang Zuoan, director and vice director of the Office for religious affaire) and members of the Patriotic Association (vice president Liu Bainian), who has repeatedly sought to credit himself with the ordination.
The new bishop was welcomed by Beijing’s Catholics with a warm applause, in a sign of their appreciation of his brief address at the end of the mass. During his intervention, the prelate thanked his family for having given him a Catholic education and all of the religious who formed him, as well as the government for the honour of becoming the bishop of Beijing.
Currently Msgr. Li lives in the residence where the deceased Michele Fu Tieshan, patriotic bishop of the capital lived the last years of his life before dying last April. In the coming days he has announced his intention to celebrate mass in the various Churches of Beijing in order to begin “getting to know the Catholics of his diocese”.