04/19/2010, 00.00
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New Hohhot bishop ordained with Vatican approval

by Zhen Yuan
Elected in 2005, the new bishop had to wait until yesterday for his ordination ceremony to take place. Fears about the presence of illegitimate bishops prove unfounded. The Holy See recognises all the concelebrants. The new bishop thinks that the chances for reconciliation between the official and underground Churches are good.
Hohhot (AsiaNews) – Mgr Paul Meng Qinglu was ordained yesterday as the new bishop of Hohhot (Inner Mongolia) with the approval of the Holy See. Speaking to AsiaNews today, he said that his priorities include the formulation of pastoral plans for his see and the training of priests in a diocese that has been without an Episcopal leader for almost five years after the death of his predecessor, Mgr Wang Xixian.

The ordination ceremony took place at 8 am yesterday in Sacred Heart Cathedral. It came ten days after Mgr Matthias Du Jiang of Bameng (Inner Mongolia) had his ordination. Joseph Ma Yinglin, who is not recognised as bishop by the Vatican, took part in that ceremony. Many were concerned that other illegitimate bishops might show up at Mgr Meng’s ordination. Fortunately, only prelates approved by the Holy See attended this event. Mgr Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning was the ordainer.

“Mgr Pei is a dear friend of mine. I invited him to ordain me and the others are from neighbouring dioceses,” Bishop Meng said.”

Bishop Du was joined by Bishop Meng’s retreat director Bishop Li Jing of Ningxia and Bishop Liu Shigong of Wumeng. Some 90 priests from Hohhot and neighbouring dioceses concelebrated the service.

At least 3,000 Catholics took part in the liturgy, 600 inside the cathedral and the rest praying outside.

Mgr Meng, 47 (pictured kneeling), said that he has to come up with a system to manage Church affairs, including Church properties, old and new, finances and parish needs. He believes that his ordination will “bring along a new face” and “unite our priests” to work for the progress of the diocese.

He remains hopeful with respect to reconciliation with the underground Church. He said the official Church is open to dialogue and is just waiting for a sign from the underground community. Some members of the latter did take place in his ordination ceremony.

The diocese of Hohhot has a Catholic population of 50,000, served by 20 priests and 17 nuns.

Bishop Meng is an ethnic Han Chinese, born in a Catholic family in Wumeng. After high school, he entered the Hohhot seminary in 1985. Ordained priest in 1989, he began teaching in the same institution, eventually becoming the dean of studies.

He took part in short study programmes abroad, in Hong Kong in 1994 and Belgium in 2007. At the same time, he worked for a number of parishes in Hohhot diocese.

Between 2004 and 2005, he was in charge of diocesan affairs during the last months of Bishop Wang Xixian.

Since 2001, he has been vice-chairman of the Inner Mongolia’s Patriotic Association and Church Affairs Commission, and Inner Mongolia provincial member in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. His Episcopal election dates back to 11 June 2005, but he was able to be officially ordained only yesterday.

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