Yibin’s bishop ordained in the presence of excommunicated bishop
Mgr Chen Shizhong presided over the ceremony. Lei Shiyin, the excommunicated bishop of a neighbouring diocese, was present. Police closely monitored the ceremony, using a security scan and banning pictures and video. Diocesan websites were blocked.
Yibin (AsiaNews) – Mgr Peter Luo Xuegang (pictured) was ordained as coadjutor bishop of Yibin diocese in southwestern Sichuan province today. The pope approved his ordination. However, excommunicated Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin attended the service going against the expressed wish of the Holy See, which requires that excommunicated prelates not participate in Catholic rituals. Concerned about public order, police closely monitored the function, banning phones and cameras and forcing participants to go through a security scan.

Mgr Luo, 47, is the third bishop ordained with papal approval. In June and July, two ordinations were performed without papal mandate, provoking the ire of the Vatican.

Bishop John Chen Shizhong of Yibin, 95, presided over the ordination ceremony. Bishops Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou, Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia, John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yulin and Coadjutor Bishop Paul Xiao Zejiang of Guiyang were the consecrating bishops.

Although the Holy See and local Catholics hoped until the end that Lei Shiyin would not participate, his participation was already known in and outside the Vatican.

Lei Shiyin, who studied with Mgr Luo, is the bishop of a neighbouring diocese. He also chairs the Sichuan Patriotic Association and is in favour of an “independent” and “patriotic” Chinese Catholic Church. In a recent interview, he said that the Church in China is “grown up” and must continue its journey on its own.

Although decried, his presence is not expected to invalidate the ordination since the presiding prelate, Mgr Chen, is in communion with the pope. However, it does raise question about religious freedom since bishops, priests and believers are forced to put up with political and governmental interference in to how to conduct religious services.

Increasingly, Catholics are resisting attempts by the Chinese government and Communist Party to interfere with strictly religious matters. Even local authorities would like to rid themselves of the task of controlling Catholics.

Indeed, the authorities were so concerned about what the faithful might do that they required the thousand or so participants to arrive three hours before the ceremony and go through a security scan.

Participants were also not allowed to take pictures or tape the ceremony. “The Vatican has spies who, as soon as the ceremony is over, send the pictures to Rome and the world,” some Party members said.

The diocese’s websites were blocked for the entire day.

The Diocese of Yibin has two bishops, seven priests and about 30,000 Catholics.