Print Version    Email to Friend
Tranquil ordination had snags

CHANGZHI (SE): At 8.00am on November 10, Father Peter Ding Lingbin was ordained as the bishop of Changzhi in Shanxi province, in what was described as a tranquil atmosphere.

The 54-year-old newly-ordained bishop came to the priesthood late in life, first having worked as a medical doctor in the local city hospital.

Fears that illicitly ordained bishops may gatecrash proved to be ill-founded and the government threat to only allow a few people inside the church did not eventuate.

At least 2,000 were able to attend the ceremony, including dozens of priests and sisters from neighbouring dioceses. Several hundred people were allowed inside, while the majority gathered in the Church compound.

Visitors and onlookers stopped in the street in front of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart to see what was happening.

AsiaNews was told that security was discreet, a far cry from some ordinations in the past, although UCAN was told that identification cards were required and a ban on cameras and mobile phones was enforced.

The three ordaining bishops, as well as those who concelebrated, are all in communion with the pope: Bishop Joseph Li Shan, from Beijing, who was the main ordaining bishop; Bishop Meng Ningyou, from Taiyuan in Shanxi; Bishop Wu Junwei, from Yuncheng in Jiangzhou; Bishop Li Shuguang, from Nanchang; and Bishop Zhang Yinlin, from Anyang in Henan.

The ordination was also attended by the former bishop of Changzhi, Bishop Andrea Jin Daoyuan.

But UCAN reports that he has become the sticking point, as although he was ordained illicitly in 2000, he has since been reconciled with the pope, but now at 87 years of age had stepped down some years ago.

The snag in the river is that the government still recognises him as the bishop of the diocese, while the Vatican has appointed Bishop Ding as the bishop. Nevertheless, the government is only recognising him as the coadjutor, but is respecting his right of succession.

A local priest commented that in this way Beijing has kept its finger on the control button and, even though rumour has it that a fresh round of negotiations between the Vatican and Beijing was taking place in early November, it appears deep differences still exist.

Another priest commented that currently there is a lot of upbeat news about the Church in China doing the rounds, which he thinks is designed to confuse the Vatican vision; like legalising illicit bishops and the Church transferring the right to appoint bishops to Beijing.

It promotes an agreement as being imminent, which he believes puts pressure on the Vatican.

There have been rumours that the conduct of the ordination ceremony was the first fruit of an anticipated agreement between China and the Vatican, but while Bishop Ding has had the approval of the Holy See for over two years, Beijing’s approval only came in recent weeks.

Two years ago the diocese was visited by Wang Zuo’an, from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, to check out the situation.

As has been the practice for several years, the papal letter sent to Bishop Ding was read in private to the priests only and the letter from the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China was read in public.

Bishop Ding thanked the bishops, priests, religious and the people present at the ceremony, as well as officials of the United Front Work Department and the Religious Affairs Bureau.

The new bishop graduated as a doctor in 1982 and practiced medicine until 1988, when he went to the seminary in Wuhan. He was ordained as a priest in 1992.

From 1995 to 2011 he was the president of the Saint Anthony Dispensary, which is run by the diocese and offers medical services to the poor in the area. He has also been the secretary of the diocese and later became the apostolic administrator.

The diocese today has 51 priests and 22 seminarians, with a Catholic population of over 50,000.

More from this section