Harbin (AsiaNews) - Despite the criticism of local Catholics and even the Vatican warning Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng was ordained bishop without papal mandate this morning at Harbin Cathedral (Heilongjiang).
The liturgy was presided by Msgr. Johan Fang Xinyao of Linyi (Shandong), national president of the Patriotic Association. Other concelebrating bishops were: Msgr. Pei Junmin of Liaoning, Msgr. Meng Qinglu of Hohhot (Inner Mongolia), Msgr. Wang Renlei of Xuzhou (Jiangsu) and Msgr. Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun (Shandong).
All bishops were approved by the Holy See, including Msgr. Wang, who was legitimized in May. It is not known whether their participation was spontaneous or was forced, as was the case in other ordinations.
According to a report published online on "Catholic Church in China", published in Chinese by the Patriotic Association and bishops' council, there were more than 40 priests and about 1000 faithful present at the Mass. During the liturgy, instead of the mandate of the Pope, the letter from the bishops' council was read, a body approved by Government but not recognized by the Holy See.
Before the Mass ended, Yue told the congregation that he understood the way ahead would be very difficult but he was willing to shoulder the cross. "Today I am chosen as the bishop of Heilongjiang, I know it is a big responsibility. I know to be a bishop is not an honour but a ministry," he said, asking the congregation to support him."
Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing and Bishop Qu Ailin of Hunan sent their congratulatory messages but both were sick and hospitalized, and so could not attend the liturgy.
Now, the leadership of the national Patriotic Association selected in December 2010, comprises five illicit bishops - Ma Yinglin, Lei Shiyin, Guo Jincai, Huang Bingzhang and Yue Fusheng, two legitimate bishops Shen Bin of Haimen, Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, two laymen Liu Yuanlong and Shu Nanwu of Jiangxi, and Sister Wu Lin.
The new bishop Yue Fusheng, 48, was ordained as a priest of Harbin, despite coming from Hebei. He is a vice-president of the PA at the national level. In the 1980s he studied at the seminary in Shenyang. In 1995 he attended the World Youth Day in Manila, where a Chinese delegation arrived for the first time. In the same year, he studied briefly in Hong Kong and South Korea, from March 1997 to July 1998 he studied at the Catholic University of Leuven.
In October 1999 he was nominated to be bishop of the diocese of Heilongjiang, and voted by a committee of the local church until May 2012.
According to the PA publication, there are about 80 thousand faithful in the diocese.
Yue's ordination has resolved the "disappearance" of Fr. Joseph Zhao Hongchun, apostolic administrator of Harbin, recognized by the Holy See. Immediately after the ceremony, Fr. Joseph and Fr. Zhang Xisheng, his assistant pastor, were released. Fr. Zhao was arrested on the afternoon of July 4, Fr. Zhang was arrested by public security yesterday morning.
Local sources told AsiaNews that some prominent government officials visited the underground bishop Msgr. Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, asking him to persuade the Holy See to approve the ordination of Fr. Yue. They also ordered Msgr. Wei not to leave his home at this time.
Some Catholics in Harbin have told AsiaNews that they prayed with great intensity in these days for Fr. Yue to repent his decision, for the release of the two underground priests and for the sufferings of the Church of Heilongjiang.