Handan diocese is preparing to go ahead with the episcopal ordination of Father Joseph Sun Jigen despite objection from the government.
The ordination is scheduled for June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, at Caozhuang Church in Hebei province. Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai will be the main consecrator to ordain Father Sun as his coadjutor.
The diocese has prepared everything for the ordination and will not change its plan. It has also informed all Catholics to begin a novena to pray for the ordination.
According to local sources, government officials rejected the date of the ordination saying it comes close to the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China on July 1 and also that they maintain it should be the government to decide the ordination date.
The government sees the symbolic feast day as “sensitive,” as it means “we are loyal to Rome,” a source said, adding that it also wants the presence of Joseph Guo Jincai, an illicit bishop in the same province, if the ordination were to take place.
The local Church thinks ordaining a bishop is an internal matter and only needs to inform the government not apply for approval, the source added.
Father Sun is currently making a spiritual retreat and cannot be reached. Church people have also transferred Bishop Yang, 89, to a safe place so that he will not be prevented from presiding at the ordination.
“The current situation is a test for Father Sun. If he succumbs to the government, it will split up the diocese as some priests accepted him only because it is the pope’s appointment,” a source said.
Father Sun was born in 1967. He entered the minor seminary in 1986 and the major seminary two years later. He was ordained a priest in 1995. He was appointed diocesan chancellor in 1997 and was vicar general from 2001 to 2005.
He was elected as the coadjutor bishop in 2010. He has been a member of Handan city’s People’s Political Consultative Conference since 1998.
A Church observer who preferred anonymity said that it is a “provident moment” and good sign that the Church leaders deal with the episcopal ordination on its own as it is a strictly Church matter.