06/27/2011, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN

Hebei: ordination of Handan bishop cancelled, it had Holy See approval

by Jian Mei
The ordination was scheduled for 29 June, feast day of Sts Peter and Paul. The priest had just completed his spiritual retreat and was preparing to go back to his diocese. Police detained him and took him to an unknown location. Meanwhile, the current bishop, who was set to preside over the ceremony, suffered a heart attack.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Episcopal ordination of Fr Joseph Sun Jigen as the coadjutor bishop of Handan, Hebei (northern China) this Wednesday, feast day of Sts Peter and Paul, has been cancelled, Catholic sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews today.

The 43-year-old bishop-designate was taken away by police yesterday morning morning after a five-day spiritual retreat, they said.

Fr Sun’s appointment had been approved by the Holy See and recognised by the Chinese government.

Local Catholics said that his whereabouts are unknown. Some people believe he was taken to Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, north of Handan.

Sources said the diocese hoped only legitimate bishops from Hebei would attend the ordination liturgy. In recent day, diocese officials had negotiated with local and provincial officials on ordination arrangement, but had failed to reach an agreement.

Yesterday, Corpus Domini, as soon as Fr Sun finished his retreat and prepared to return to his diocese from Weihui in Henan province, he and another clergyman, Fr Joseph Huai Jianting, chancellor of Handan, were forced by a few public security officials from Handan into a police vehicle.

When the police car reached Handan, Fr Huai insisted both priests should return to their respective dioceses. Instead, they were driven to nearby Shahe city, where police put Fr Huai into another vehicle and took him alone back to Handan. Fr Sun continued the journey northward toward Shijiazhuang. Since then, Fr Sun’s whereabouts have not been known, the sources said.

In the meantime, Bishop Yang Xiangtai of Handan, 89, suffered a heart attack and is now under treatment in Dazhong Hospital in Weixian (Hebei). Bishop Yang was scheduled to ordain Fr Sun.

Born on 2 August 1967, Fr Sun entered Handan diocesan minor seminary in 1986. In 1994, he taught in the minor seminary. In 1995, he was ordained into the priesthood by the late Bishop Chen Bolu of Handan. In 1997, he was appointed chancellor, and between 2001-2005, he was named vicar general. In 2005, he was named parish priest in Yongnian. In 2007, he was appointed bishop-designate of Handan by the Holy See.

His Episcopal emblem was ready, a cross and a shield to defend faith and, in the background, the topography of Handan areas.

In the diocese, the faithful are particularly devoted to the Holy Spirit.
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