Beijing (AsiaNews) - The vice-president of the Patriotic Association, Liu Bainain confirmed to the media that the ordination of Fr Joseph Guo Jincai as Bishop of Chengde (Hebei) will take place tomorrow November 20. The ordination of the 42-year old priest, the first in the last four years, and the obligation of certain bishops to attend were criticized by the Vatican yesterday as "serious violations of freedom of religion and conscience" and "harmful" to the constructive relations between China and the Holy See.
Liu Bainian said the ordination is "for the good of the Church". Speaking to the Associated Press he said that "we waited two years for [the view of the Vatican] and we can not wait any longer ... If this will damage relations between China and the Vatican, this is not an issue that concerns us”.
In an interview with Hong Kong based Sing Tao Liu said that he did not know the Holy See's approval of Guo’s ordination, since China and the Vatican have no diplomatic relations and he was not aware of the intentions of the Holy See.
The Vatican press office released a statement yesterday stating that the ordination of Fr Guo is not approved by the Holy See and therefore, if it takes place, it will be illegal.
Fr. Guo, born in Chengde, Hebei, was ordained a priest in 1992. He is now deputy secretary general of the national Patriotic Association and a member of the National People's Congress.
According to the Vatican yearbook, the diocese is referred to as Jehol. Fr. Guo is the first bishop of the new diocese which has 20 thousand faithful, 15 priests and six nuns.
In March last, the Vatican gave specific indication to the bishops in communion with the Pope not to participate in acts (such as assemblies or ordinations of bishops) that are in contradiction with their communion with the pope.
According to AsiaNews sources, other bishops are under pressure to participate in tomorrow’s ordination and at least three bishops have been forcibly seized to compel them to take part.
In recent days, Mgr. Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning was in the Diocese of Chifeng (Inner Mongolia) to ordain some priests. On 17 November, members of the Religious Affairs Bureau of Liaoning began phoning him to encourage him to attend the Chengde ordination, but Mgr. Pei refused. That night, the representatives of the government arrived in Chifeng, to the hotel where Mgr. Pei was staying. AsiaNews sources say that the bishop "is under enormous pressure and in great difficulty”. Mgr. Li Liangui of Cangzhou and Mgr. Feng Xinmao Hengshui have also been seized by government representatives to force them to ordain the new bishop of Chengde.
A Catholic from Hengshui told AsiaNews that Mgr. Feng has been missing since Nov. 14. "One of our priests - he continued - has managed to contact Mgr. Feng, who said he was taken by members of the Religious Affairs and was discussing with them not to attend the ordination of Chengde. Until now we have no other information about him”.
Other sources in Hebei told AsiaNews that Mgr. Li was taken a few days ago by government representatives and has not been heard of since.
According to sources contacted by AsiaNews, the Catholics of Chengde are "nervous and confused. This ordination is very mysterious. There has been no announcement of the date, place, or ordaining bishop. The local priests are inaccessible and have turned off their cell phones or do not respond".
"The fact that the ordination is not approved by the Holy See – the source adds - it's like a time bomb for the faithful: some want to escape from Chengde, so as not to participate, others are concerned that the new bishop seems too close to the government and Patriotic Association, but far from the local and universal Church.
In Hebei, a non-Catholic points out that in Chinese society there is a great need for religion and it is sad that Catholics are subjected to this instability and insecurity.