CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Wenzhou celebrates landmark ordinations

WENZHOU (SE): The ordination of three seminarians as deacons on December 5 in Wenzhou took on added significance, as all three had all been studying at the Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai when pressure from local government authorities forced classes to be suspended in 2012.

The seminary has remained closed ever since, as have two minor seminaries in the city.

However, in 2014, one minor seminary was allow to open on a limited basis, but only for students who had been recruited prior to its closure, are actually from Shanghai and have signed on for the local diocese.

In addition, the three new deacons were ordained in the city that has taken the brunt of the 13-month-long government cross removal campaign, which has caused much angst and uncertainty for all Christians in the area.

UCAN reported that Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang ordained Joseph Cai Zhengyou, Paul Lin Yi and Athanasius Sung Shanxun to the deaconate in their home diocese at the cathedral in Wenzhou.

Sheshan Seminary became the butt of a standoff between the Church and the government when, on 12 July 2012, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin announced at the conclusion of his ordination ceremony as a bishop that he would, as of that moment, quit positions that he held in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, a government body for the monitoring of Church affairs.

He was ordained as the auxiliary bishop of the diocese, but with the subsequent deaths of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, from the official Church community in August 2013, and Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, from the unofficial community in March the following year, he is now the only bishop in the city.

He has remained under house arrest at Sheshan since his ordination day.

But since Sheshan has always been a regional seminary, the closure took on greater significance, as students from several dioceses were affected.

Bishop Zhu eventually found a home for his three students in Northern Hebei the following year.

The three new deacons had entered the Tailaiqiao Minor Seminary in Shanghai in 2004 and then moved onto Sheshan in 2007. They form the largest group from their diocese to be ordained together.

Currently, one-third of the 12 government-recognised regional seminaries in China have suspended operations in recent years.

Although lack of students has been one of the most significant factors, politics, both external and internal have been at play, and the suspensions have often been far from being free from internal Church acrimony.

It is expected that following the meeting on religion the Communist Party is planning for this month, more rules and regulations may evolve, with what is being referred to as Sinicisation in religious formation likely to be a big unknown.

UCAN reported that after his ordination, Reverend Cai said, “My 11 years of vocation path was not always a smooth one. Sometimes I felt my vocation was shaky and many times there were struggles. I choose to respond to God’s call as this is what I want. I am taking this step decisively without regrets.”

Reverend Cai worked for five years after graduating from high school. He said that during those years God’s call to priesthood was so strong that he could no longer ignore it.

His former teacher from Sheshan, Father Zhong Jinxing, was among the 23 concelebrants at the ordination Mass.

“I am happy they have finished their studies. But the road ahead will be even harder, as it means real sacrifice. It is the time for them to bear their crosses,” he said.

 

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