11/30/2006, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN
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Bishop escapes from abductors to avoid participating in an ordination not allowed by the Holy See

Four other bishops take part in the ordination, but very few faithful and priest are present attend the ceremony.

Rome (AsiaNews) – A bishop abducted by the Religious Affairs Bureau to force him to participate in an Episcopal ordination not sanctioned by the Holy See was able to escape and is now in hiding until the ritual is performed. Mgr Li Liangui of Cangzhou (Xianxian) was detained along with Mgr Peter Feng Xinmao, bishop of Hengshui, and taken to Xuzhou (Jiangsu) to take part in the ordination of Fr Wang Renlei as bishop.

Both prelates were taken away by car on the pretext of seeing some property owned by the Church in Tianjin. Instead they found themselves in Xuzhou, under guard. In a moment of distraction, Mgr Li was able to elude officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and escape.

The incident is symptomatic of how much bishops in the official Church are unwilling to put up with government interference in sacramental and Episcopal issues.

The Episcopal ordination took place without the approval of the Holy See anyway. In Xuzhou's Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fr Wang Renlei, 36, became an auxiliary bishop of the diocese in a ceremony celebrated at 8 am.

However, there were some glitches in the event. Mgr Qian Yurong, 94, the bishop of the diocese, who was supposed to preside over the ordination, remained seated throughout the ceremony.

Said to be gravely ill, he is one of the few bishops in the official Church not in communion with the Holy See. He has not reconciled with the Pope and well-known for his pro-government positions.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association conscripted other bishops from neighbouring dioceses to celebrate the event. Mgr Zhao Fengchang, bishop of Yanggu in Liao Cheng (Shandong) presided over the ordination. Mgr Xu Honggen of Suzhou and Lu Xinping of Nanjing were among other co-celebrants. According to witnesses, Mgr Feng Xinmao was present but did not take part in the ritual.

Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and about ten priests were also present. But only a few hundreds of faithful took part in the mass. Typically, thousands gather when bishops are ordained.

The low turnout of believers is due in part to the fact that the ordination was announced and made in a very short period of time (four days). Tight security around the church was another factor. But also because of the sorrow many faithful feel at another example of division between the Vatican and a new bishop. 

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