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Resisting bishop suspended from top jobs

LIAONING (UCAN): Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of the official Church community in Liaoning has been suspended as vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and as president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association after refusing to attend the illicit ordination of Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang in Shantou on July 14.

Bishop Pei barricaded himself in his cathedral in the run up to the ordination and the priests and people of the diocese crowded around him to prevent government officials from taking him forcefully to Shantou.

Since late September, reports have been circulating on Catholic blog sites and in online chat groups that Bishop Pei had resigned from these two positions.

However, a reliable source said that it is a disciplinary action against the 42-year-old bishop. 

Nevertheless, the official spokesperson for the bishops’ conference and the Patriotic Association, Father Joseph Yang Yu, denied that Bishop Pei is being sanctioned. “There is no announcement on our website,” he said, adding that Bishop Pei’s name and biography remain on the site.

The bishop did take part in a previous illicit ordination in Chengde on 20 November 2010. He was subsequently elected vice president of the bishops’ conference during the National Congress of Catholic Representatives in Beijing that December.

As he had been scheduled to be the principal ordaining bishop at Father Huang’s ordination, Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, chairperson of the Patriotic Association acted in his stead.

The source said Bishop Pei is now confined to his house and not allowed to meet other priests or visit parishes.

Parish priests and sisters are expressing concern that another illicit ordination may be on the cards, this time in Heilongjiang (Harbin), and the treatment of Bishop Pei may only be the beginning of pressuring him to attend.

A China-based Church watcher, who declined to be named, said Bishop Pei is the first member of the new leadership of the bishops’ conference to decline to preside at an illicit ordination.

The observer said that Beijing might think the bishop has exerted more influence than others who have sought to avoid such ordinations. The government knows that if it turns a blind eye to this, it will face greater resistance to its push to sell its policy of self-election and self-ordination of bishops.

While noting that it was too early to say if Bishop Pei’s suspension is effective or not, the Church watcher said it will be difficult for the bishop to avoid future ordinations and that his position reflects the dilemma facing all bishops in the official Church community.

Earlier this year, Bishop Joseph Li Liangui, of Cangzhou (Xianxian), was dismissed from his position in the Political Consultative Conference of Hebei province as a punishment for his absence from the national congress.

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