Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Along with reports that China and the Holy See have signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, the Holy See Press Office has released two important statements. In the first one, Pope Francis lifts the excommunication of seven official bishops, who had been ordained without a pontifical mandate. The second says that the Vatican has decided to create the Diocese of Chengde out of territory taken from other dioceses (in particular Jehol/Jinzhou and Chifeng). This will allow Mgr Guo Jincai, who is back in the ecclesial communion, to have a diocese in his own right, without sharing it with other bishops.
Earlier this year, the Vatican had asked the legitimate bishops of Shantou and Mindong, Mgr Peter Zhuang Jianjian and Mgr Joseph Guo Xijin respectively, to step aside in favour of Mgr Joseph Huang Bingzhang and Vincent Zhan Silu, who are now reconciled with the Pope. At present it is not clear if this will happen.
With a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has decided to readmit to full ecclesial communion the remaining “official” Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate: H.E. Mgr Joseph Guo Jincai, H.E. Mgr Joseph Huang Bingzhang, H.E. Mgr Paul Lei Shiyin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Liu Xinhong, H.E. Mgr Joseph Ma Yinglin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Yue Fusheng, H.E. Mgr Vincent Zhan Silu and H.E. Mgr Anthony Tu Shihua, OFM (who, before his death on 4 January 2017, had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See).
Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.
The Catholic Community in China is called to live more brotherly collaboration in order to promote with renewed commitment the proclamation of the Gospel. Indeed, the Church exists to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and salvific love of the Father.
The new Diocese of Chengde
Eager to promote the pastoral care of the Lord's flock and to more effectively look after their spiritual good, the Supreme Pontiff Francis decided to establish in mainland China the Diocese of Chengde, suffragan of Beijing, with episcopal see in the cathedral church of Jesus the Good Shepherd, located in the Administrative Division of Shuangluan, in the city of Chengde.
A significant part of the territory of the new diocese historically belonged to the Apostolic Vicariate of Eastern Mongolia, which was set up on 21 December 1883, and erected as the Diocese of Jehol/Jinzhou in the Bull Quotidie Nos of by Pope Pius XII on 11 April 1946.
The new ecclesiastical district is located in Hebei province. Its territory is defined by the municipal boundaries of the city of Chengde and includes eight rural districts (Chengde, Xinglong, Pingquan, Luanping, Longhua, Fengning, Kuancheng and Weichang) and three administrative divisions (Shuangqiao, Shuangluan and Yingshouyingzikuang).
As a result of this, the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Dioceses of Jehol/Jinzhou and Chifeng are being modified, so that a portion of the territory of each now becomes part of the new Diocese of Chengde.
The latter covers an area of 39,519 km2 with a population of about 3.7 million people, including, according to recent estimates, some 25,000 Catholics divided in 12 parishes and served by seven priests, a dozen women religious and some seminarians.