Yinchuan (AsiaNews) - Mgr Joseph Li Jing, 41, is preparing to celebrate his first Christmas Mass as bishop of the diocese of Ningxia (North-west China). His hope and his pastoral plan is that its 12 thousand Catholics will mature in their faith.
On 20 December Mgr Li succeeded Bishop John Baptist Liu Jingshan, 96, exactly two years after he became coadjutor bishop on Dec. 21, 2007. Bishop Li and Mgr. Liu are both approved by the Holy See and recognized by the government (cf. AsiaNews.it, 21/12/2007 New bishop of Ningxia only ordained by prelates approved by the Pope). Hundreds of Catholics from different parts of the diocese packed the cathedral in Yinchuan city, northwestern China, for his inaugural as bishop mass under a freezing temperatures. Bishop Li told AsiaNews he will stay at the cathedral over the Christmas days, and will visit the other parishes, 16 churches and prayer centers in his new role after the festive season. In past years he has made several visits throughout the diocese.
The diocese covers the whole of Ningxia Autonomous Region, home to the Hui ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslims. The region's population is about 6 million. Mgr Li will preside at the Christmas Masses in the cathedral. "There is a Christmas Mass at 4 pm for the elderly, who need to go to bed early. Then there are the night masses at 8 and 11.30 pm. The next day there will be masses at different times throughout the day. During the midnight mass there will be the baptism of some catechumens; on the 25th there will be a cultural show on Christmas. During the Christmas period - and especially the night of 24th - many non-Catholics come to churches, drawn by curiosity and the festive atmosphere. "Our people - says the bishop – welcome them and introduce them to church, inviting them to participate in songs and in the catechism".
Over the next five years Mgr Li to "renovate churches and restore the various centers of prayer, so that pastors have decent places to live and to offer formation programs." To date there are eight churches in the diocese and eight prayer centers (in private homes) where they celebrate mass.
"I truly hope to enhance the formation of my faithful and increase vocations in my diocese," says Msgr. Li, recalling that his diocese has 12 priests and five seminarians.
Bishop Li was born in 1968 and was ordained in 1996. He studied in Germany, receiving his master degree in pastoral theology. "I thank my professors," he says, "but it's difficult for me to visit them again. I hope to deepen my knowledge and my formation in order to be a good bishop. "