Mindong: Msgr. Guo Xijin resigns from public office and retires to a life of prayer

The decision announced yesterday at evening mass. The bishop, not recognized by the government, will only accept to exercise the sacrament of reconciliation. A step to try to save the unity of the diocese, turned upside down for the implementation of the Sino-Vatican Agreement.

Mindong (AsiaNews) - Msgr Vincenzo Guo Xijin, auxiliary bishop of Mindong (but not recognized by the government), has decided "to abandon all offices in the diocese and retire toa life in prayer,” reports a priest of the diocese to AsiaNews. Mindong diocese is currently led by the ordinary bishop Zhan Silu (left in the photo), formerly excommunicated and reconciled by Pope Francis after the signing of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on the appointment of bishops.

Msgr. Guo’s decision (right in the photo) was communicated to the faithful after yesterday's evening mass and with an official letter in which he defines himself as a "fool" and a "lout", unable to keep up with the times and with the style "of the Church in China and directly in our diocese”.

From the content of the letter it is clear that the bishop's retreat to a life of prayer is an attempt to save the unity of diocesan church under Bishop Zhan Silu. It states that Msgr Guo will celebrate mass in private not in public, so without the participation of the faithful, instead he will celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.

Increasingly it would seem that Msgr. Guo is a victim of the Sino-Vatican agreement. The Mindong diocese was to be a kind of "pilot project" for the agreement’s implementation. At Pope Francis’ request, Msgr. Guo, agreed to be demoted to auxiliary bishop to leave the seat of ordinary to Msgr. Zhan Silu, official bishop, whose excommunication was lifted by the pope – again as part of the agreement.

But Msgr. Guo, not having signed up to join the independent Church, was never recognized by the government. In recent months he also risked being homeless, as the government wanted to evict him from his bishopric.

Although Pope Francis has urged all Catholics to reconcile, in the diocese of Mindong there are tensions between priests who swear obedience to Msgr. Zhan Silu and the Communist Party (and the "independent Church") and those who do not accept submission to the Party.

In his letter, Msgr. Guo states that "the sacraments celebrated by those who sign and those who do not sign are legitimate". It is likely that his decision to withdraw from public life is born of a wish not to foster tensions between those who refer to priests who have not signed up to join the "independent Church" and those who have instead signed.

Some priests are greatly pained by this decision: “The bishop [Guo] exhorts all the faithful to remain steadfast in the faith. He is a true shepherd and priest: out of fidelity to Christ, he has often been imprisoned. Even the government authorities respect him”.

Msgr.Zhan Silu, with a license in theology from Hong Kong, was illegitimately ordained bishop in 2000, and then was installed in the official diocese of Ningde (and Mindong) in 2006, followed by very few priests. In 2018 Pope Francis lifted his excommunication and installed him as ordinary bishop of the diocese. Msgr. Zhan is the most interviewed personality in the government media.