CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 July 2019

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Shanxi seminary to close for two years

TAIYUAN (UCAN): The embattled Montecorvino Major Seminary in Shanxi province, China, which has been embroiled for years in internal leadership disputes, will suspend operations for two years while structures and staff are reorganised.

Local Church people told UCA News that Bishop John Huo Cheng, from Fenyang, the former chairperson of the board, announced the closure on January 7.

“The 11 final-year seminarians will be allowed to continue their studies until their graduation this June, but younger ones have to leave after the first semester,” one seminarian who asked not to be named, said.

The seminary, located in the suburb of Taiyuan City, currently has an enrollment of 28 young men studying for the priesthood.

Local Church sources said the decision to close the seminary was made during a meeting convened by Shanxi province’s Religious Affairs Bureau a day before the public notification.

During the meeting, it was agreed by the heads of all eight dioceses in the province that the school would close for two years and that an ad hoc committee of diocesan people would replace the disbanded seminary board.

Local people added that coadjutor Bishop Paul Meng Ningyou, from Taiyuan, has been named to oversee remedial measures to reform the seminary.

“I feel distressed about this outcome, but it seems that we don’t have a better choice,” one committee member explained.

“The seminary’s current situation is far from satisfactory. There is no rector or spiritual director. Only two priests in residence maintain routine operations,” the committee member added.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs is to conduct an evaluation of the seminary, including the qualifications of its academic staff, financial status, the sourcing of students and library collection over the next two years.

The committee member added that if in that time the seminary meets all established standards, it will be allowed to recruit new students and resume operations.

Montecorvino was established in 1985, but in recent years has suffered from disputes among its leadership.

The board dismissed Father Anthony Chang Tongxi, who became the fifth rector in 2009, for alleged malpractice and poor management in 2011, despite pressure from provincial authorities to allow him to stay.

In September of the same year, the semester was postponed for more than two months, after which 50 of the 70 seminarians returned to classes, while the rest transferred to other institutions.

Since that time, Montecorvino has had trouble recruiting new students.

“We will return to our respective dioceses and wait for new arrangements,” another seminarian said.

“If not, then the Taiyuan seminary will help us to transfer to other seminaries.”

The seminarian added that while he understands the bishops’ constraints over the institution, he was disappointed at the outcome.

“The bishops seem to do things in their own way and rarely attend to the seminary,” he said.

But another seminarian said he supported the move. “It is good for the seminary to improve,” he said, adding that he will return after the problems are fixed.

A formation centre for religious sisters, which operates inside the seminary campus, will not be affected by the closure and will continue operations as usual.

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