» 07/14/2011 13:35 CHINA – VATICAN Eight bishops in communion with the pope forced to take part in illegitimate ordination in Shantou by Jian Mei This is the first ordination since the illegitimate bishop of Leshan was officially excommunicated. About 1,500 people (out of 140,000) took part in the ceremony. Some participating bishops say they were forced to participate. Required to attend, Mgr Pei Junmin was able to stay away thanks to his priests.
Shantou (AsiaNews) – Eight bishops in communion with the pope have taken part this morning in the unlawful ordination of Fr Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop of Shantou (Guangdong). This is the third ordination without papal mandate in China after that of Chengde (20 November 2010) and Leshan (29 June 2011). It is also the first unlawful ordination after the Holy See publicly excommunicated Fr Joseph Lei Shiyin of Leshan and warned officiating bishops of their possible excommunication.
Today’s ordination took place in Shantou’s St Joseph Cathedral. It was presided by Mgr Fang Xinyao of Linyi, president of the Chinese Patriotic Association. The other officiating bishops were Mgr Shen Bin of Haimen, Mgr Liao Hongqing of Meizhou, Mgr Liang Jiansen of Jiangmen, Mgr Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou, Mgr Su Yongda of Zhanjiang, Mgr Li Suguang, coadjutor bishop of Jiangxi, and Mgr He Zeqing of Chongqing (Wanzhou).
A priest present at the ceremony told AsiaNews that all eight bishops placed their hands on Fr Huang. All eight are also in communion with the pope. Some told AsiaNews sources that they had to take part in the ordination. About 32 priests took part in the liturgy, including some from the diocese of Shantou.
Seven Hakka-speaking priests, including Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, did not show up. The latter was secretly ordained with Vatican mandate in 2006, but is only recognised as a priest by Chinese government, and has been harassed by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (see Paul Wang, “Patriotic Association threatens 10 Episcopal ordinations without papal mandate,” in AsiaNews, 16 May 2011).
A priest from Shantou told AsiaNews that three deacons, 16 nuns and more than 1,500 people (faithful and guests) took part in the ceremony, a thousand in the church and hundreds in adjacent rooms and halls. The number is not high if one considers that the Diocese of Shantou has 140,000 members, 19 priests, 30 nuns and 3 seminarians.
Police patrolled the roads that led to the cathedral from the early morning hours.
Born in 1967, Fr Huang Bingzhang studied at the Wuchang seminary (Wuhan) beginning in 1985. Ordained in 1991, he served as parish priest at St Joseph’s Cathedral. Since 1998, he has served as a member of China’s National People’s Congress for three five-year terms. He is also one of the vice-chairpersons of the government-sanctioned Patriotic Association and chairman of the Guangdong Catholic Patriotic Association.
Mgr Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning was one of the bishops pressured into participation; however, he and perhaps another bishop were able to stay away from the ordination.
A priest from Liaoning told AsiaNews that Mgr Pei and all the priests from the diocese agreed to uphold the Catholic faith and not participate in the unlawful ordination.
“While we were having a diocese’s meeting July 5-8 at the bishop’s house, Bishop Pei told us he had been asked to take part in the Shantou event. He and all priests expressed clearly our position of not joining the illicit ordination. So, we stayed on after the meeting until today, and prayed,” he said (see Jian Mei, “Liaoning priests rush to defense of bishop to prevent his participation in illegitimate ordination,” in AsiaNews, 8 July 2011).