01/26/2018, 12.45
CHINA-VATICAN
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A Shanghai priest appointed political advisor. Perhaps he is the future bishop

by Li Yuan

Ignatius Wu Jianlin is the head of the management team of the diocese of Shanghai, whose bishop Taddeo Ma Daqin is under house arrest. All the members of the Catholic sector of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, excluding a layman and a priest, are bishops. Three of them are illegitimate. The change of politics in the Vatican.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Fr. Ignatius Wu Jianlin, a priest at the head of the team that leads the diocese of Shanghai, has recently been appointed member of  13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCP), which the Chinese Communist Party considers its top political advisory body, but which is more often defined as a "political vessel", in short an instrument for conveying Party politics to intermediate social bodies.

The incumbent standing committee of the CPPCC announced the newly approved 2,158 members for the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC on January 24. The meeting also passed a draft timetable and agenda for the first session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, which usually scheduled in March.

The CPPCC is responsible to liaise and hear opinions from religious groups among other duties. Its members come from different social sectors and political parties in mainland China, from the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as some specially invited.

Among the 67 members in the religious sector, Fr. Ignatius Wu Jianlin is the only new Catholic member while the other eight were re-nominated. He is dean of the downtown deanery and the convener of a five-member management team of Shanghai diocese established shortly before the death of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, an influential figure in the China Church who had also been a member of the CPPCC national committee since 1988 until his death in 2013.

Traditionally, Catholic clergy named into the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, or the CPPCC are bishops or priest who destined to become bishop with or without approval from the Vatican. For example, illicit Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin has been a CPPCC member since 1998 long before he was ordained a bishop without papal mandate and excommunicated by the Holy See in 2011.

With Fr. Wu nominated into the CPPCC, local Catholics anticipated it is a sign that he might eventually become bishop of Shanghai, where now the Vatican-approved Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is given limited freedom from his house arrest to attend government-hosted meetings but still not allowed to exercise his episcopal ministry.

The Communist Party has repeatedly stressed the need to strengthen reliable patriotic force in the religious sector. “It would find it hard to trust Bishop Ma any more. He denounced the Catholic Patriotic Association in his episcopal ordination in 2012 but then turned volte-face and praised the organization in his 2016 article,” said a Shanghai Catholic who only gives his baptismal name as Peter. From the latest scenario, “Wu will likely become the head of the diocese and Ma will stay as the auxiliary,” he added.

On the other hand, another priest who returned from aboard is widely believed to be favored by the Holy See as possible bishop candidate in the Shanghai impasse, according to another local source who asked not to be named. “If Father Wu is to be made a bishop in the future instead of that priest, it will be another case for the Chinese government and the Holy See to sort out in the negotiations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wang Yang, who ranked No 4 in the standing committee of the Communist’s Politburo, was added to the CPPCC national committee, indicating he will become the new chairman to replace outgoing Yu Zhengsheng. Given Wang’s career path was not in religious affairs, observers believed he could not help improve religious freedom despite his liberal image.

The other re-nominated Catholic figures in the religious sector are Bishops John Fang Xinyao of Linyi, Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, Joseph Shen Bin of Haimin and Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong as well as Liu Yuanlong, a layman. All of them hold positions in either the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association or the bishops’ conference--the two government-sanctioned national church bodies yet to be recognized by the Vatican.

Among them, Bishops Ma, Lei and Zhan are three of the seven illicit bishops waiting for recognition by the Vatican. 

Days ago, AsiaNews released the news that the Vatican had asked the ordinary bishop of Mindong - who leads the underground community, that is, more than 90% of the Catholics of the diocese - to step aside by becoming auxiliary or coadjutor to bishop Zhan, who would be about to be reconciled with the Holy See.

The move has greatly shocked the Church in China and around the world: very rarely has it been heard that a bishop is ordered to step aside from office. Even if a bishop does something wrong, he is asked to resign. Moreover, in the recent past, when the Holy See accepted an illegitimate bishop, he was usually placed as auxiliary bishop to a prelate approved by the Vatican. It now seems that this politics has been overturned.

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