Mgr Du has been bishop of Bameng (Inner Mongolia) for the past six years. He was ordained in secret, with Vatican approval, and without permission by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), an agency that is trying to set up a national Catholic Church, separate from Rome.
Mgr Du, 47, has not been able to speak in public as bishop until now, nor was not able to wear his Episcopal biretta and pectoral cross in public.
Today’s ceremony in Sanshenggong Cathedral was designed to show that he was being recognised by the government as well. However, the CCPA demanded that Mgr Joseph Ma Yinglin, unlawfully consecrated on 30 April 2006, be part of the service. A latae sententiae excommunication hangs over the latter.
Recently, the Vatican Commission on the Catholic Church in China issued a statement, calling on bishops to avoid acts (for example, sacramental celebrations, Episcopal ordinations or meetings) that contradict their communion with the Pope. For this reason, Bishop Du refused to take part in the service in the presence of Ma Yinglin.
During the ceremony, he publicly said that he was forced to take part in the Mass with Ma Yinglin. Now, he is under house arrest.
For the past few days, security forces have been out in force policing the city. Internet and telephones have also been placed under surveillance.
“Mgr Du’s courage is inspiring. Let us hope that other bishops follow his example,” a number of Chinese Christians told AsiaNews. However, “There are rumours that more ordinations are on the way and that Ma Yinglin wants to preside over all of them”.
For the past two years, the CCPA has tried to convince official bishops to accept Ma Yinglin as CCPA president.