09/07/2007, 00.00
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Guiyang, first Episcopal ordination after Pope’s Letter

The Holy See approves. Perhaps for the first time ever bishops and faithful from underground and official Church will celebrate together.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Tomorrow September 8th, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, in Guiyang (Guizhou), Fr. Paolo Xiao Zejiang will be ordained coadjutor bishop.  The ordination has been approved by the Holy See and it is the first to take place following the publication of Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Chinese Catholics.  Bishops and priests from the underground and official Church will take part together in the ceremony.

P. Xiao, 40, is currently the Episcopal vicar of the diocese, led by Msgr. Aniceto Wang Chongyi, 89. The diocese of Guizhou (Southern China) was formed by the union of 3 ancient dioceses: Anlong, Guiyang and Shiqian; it counts 100 thousand faithful, 25 priests and about 30 nuns.  It is a very poor diocese, given that the majority of the Catholics are small farmers.

The ordination will take place in the Cathedral of Guiyang presided over by the elderly Msgr. Wang. Among concelebrant bishops Msgr. Luigi Yu Runchen, bishop of Hanzhong (Shaanxi) and Msgr. Paolo He Zeqing of Wanzhou (Wanxian). Some bishops from Hebei are also expected.

The news that the candidate was approved by the pope is pushing many Catholics from throughout China to participate in the celebration.  AsiaNews sources affirm that many seminarians and priests from Beijing have left bound for Guiyang. What is even more important is the fact that many underground Catholics from the region have decided, in obedience to the pope, to participate in the ceremony and to collaborate with the future bishop.

According to local Church figures this gesture is fruit of Benedict XVI’s Letter, published June 30th.  In it the pope asks the bishops explicitly to make public all Vatican approvals and asks undergrounds and official Catholics to reconcile themselves and collaborate in evangelization.

Even the unofficial bishop Hu Daguo (from the ancient apostolic prefecture of Shiqian) has said he will participate in the ordination, comforted by the Vatican approval of the new candidate.   Msgr. Hu, however, not being recognised by the government will probably only be able to participate in the ceremony as a priest.

The Church in   Guizhou is diffused among the Miao ethnic group. Throughout its history it has also had various martyrs.  Four of them were canonised by John Paul II in 2000.



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