Rome (AsiaNews) - An Episcopal ordination approved by the Holy See will take place tomorrow in Nanchong (Sichuan). However, an excommunicated bishop might attend the ceremony despite Vatican instructions.
Fr Joseph Chen Gongao, 47, served as diocesan secretary and administrator in Nanchong and was rector of the Sichuan Catholic Seminary.
Mgr Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan, who will ordain him, took part in unlawful ordinations in Leshan but he later asked for forgiveness and was pardoned by the Holy See.
However, another unlawful bishop ordained in Leshan, Mgr Paul Lei Shiyin, might attend tomorrow's ceremony. He remains in a state of excommunication.
When UCANews asked him if he would attend the Nanchong ordination, Fr Lei yesterday said, "Why should I not go?"
President of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) in Sichuan, Mgr Lei has already participated in the Episcopal ordination of Bishop Peter Luo Xuegang of Yibin.
The Vatican reacted at the time by issuing a statement in which it expressed its regrets that Mgr Lei had "aggravated its situation".
Following last year's two unlawful Episcopal ordinations in Leshan and Shantou, which various bishops in communion with the pope were forced to attend, often against their will, the Vatican said that ordination ceremonies approved by the Holy See must respect Catholic tradition, which means that no one under excommunication can participate.
The presence of excommunicated bishops is a source of division within the Church and among the faithful. It drives communities to resist CPCA abuses and Maoist practices.
Fr Joseph Chen Gongao is known as a good evangeliser and a loyal servant of the Catholic Church.
He was elected bishop in 2010 but delayed his ordination because he and his community wanted to ensure that no unlawful bishop would be present.
Nevertheless, some Nanchong Catholics are still hoping that if Mgr Lei does come that he will take part in the ceremony without demanding to place his hand on the new bishop.
The diocese of Nanchong (about 200 km north of Chongqing) has 80,000 members and dozens of priests and seminarians.