ASIA NEWS REPORT: This is the first ordination since the Vatican issued a declaration on excommunication with regards to such celebrations. A lawful Episcopal consecration was scheduled to take place in Handan (Hebei) but was stopped by police. The unlawful bishop stresses the importance evangelisation but many of the faithful are “sad”.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The ordination of Fr Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, Sichuan, without papal mandate took place today, feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, by decision of the Chinese authorities and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). This is the first ordination since the Holy See issued a declaration on excommunication, which spells out the risks all those, candidates and officiating clergy, run when they participate in an unlawful ordination (cf Bernardo Cervellera, “Illicit ordinations in China: the Holy See explains what is to be done with excommunicated bishops,” AsiaNews, 13 June 2011).
Another ordination authorised by the pope was scheduled to take place in Handan (Hebei) but was blocked by the CPCA and the candidate was seized by police (see Jian Mei, “Hebei: ordination of Handan bishop cancelled, it had Holy See approval,” inAsiaNews, 27 June 2011)
Bishop Fang Xinyao of Linyi presided over the ordination, and six other legitimate bishops co-ordained. They were Bishop Fang Jianping of Tangshan, Bishop He Zeqing of Wanzhou, Bishop Li Shan of Beijing, Bishop Li Jing of Ningxia, Bishop Xiao Zejiang of Guizhou, Bishop Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng. Bishop Fang is the president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Bishop Lei, who is recognised only by the Chinese government, told AsiaNews that he hopes to strengthen the diocese and boost its evangelisation work, for now is a good time to go forward. The diocese has a Catholic population of 70,000.
About 1,000 Catholics and officials attended the unlawful ordination. The ceremony was held at a church in Emeishan City because it can hold more people. Sixty-seven priests, including 14 priests from Leshan, were present. After Mass, local Catholics held a small celebration.
An underground priest from a neighbouring province told AsiaNews that he had been warned by security officials not to leave town during Leshan’s ordination.
A Catholic in Wuhan (Hubei) said he was “lucky” the unlawful ordination did not happen in Hankou (Wuhan), and that he “at least temporarily escaped it” but sad to see it happened today.
A few weeks ago, an unlawful ordination was announced for Hankou (Wuhan) on 10 June, but was eventually cancelled because of pressure from the faithful (see Bernardo Cervellera, “Chinese bishops should have no fear and say no to Beijing’s demands, says Mgr Savio Hon,” in AsiaNews, 3 June 2011).
A Church expert said that such an ordination hurts the communion of the Church in China and with the universal Church.
Bishop Lei, 48, was ordained a priest on 30 November 1991. He is a member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the Chinese government. He has been a vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He has also been president of Catholic Patriotic Association of Sichuan Province.
Lei was elected bishop of Leshan on 18 March 2010, with 28 votes out of 31. However, his Episcopal ordination was not approved by the Holy See. He takes over the episcopacy left vacant after the death of Bishop Luo Duxi in 2009.