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Unusual move for unusual times

SHANGHAI (SE): Deacon today and priest tomorrow was the story for four seminarians from Shanghai on June 6 and 7.
Shanghai has been without the services of an active bishop since the newly ordained Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was placed under house arrest in July 2012.
And it has been without a seminary since Sheshan was closed shortly afterwards, relying on the cooperation of neighbouring dioceses and bishops for the formation of its future priests.
But on June 6, Bishop Shen Bin, from the neighbouring diocese of Haimen, was in town to ordain four seminarians first deacons then priests.
The four had completed their studies prior to the Sheshan Seminary being closed and been working as pastoral assistants in parishes in the meantime.
Peter Ren Yaning, Joseph Wu Yongtao, Joseph He Xiangxi, Pius Wu Zhiqiang were then ordained deacons and then priests on two consecutive days at St. Peter’s in Shanghai.
On June 8, they celebrated their first Masses at the Sheshan Basilica next to the seminary on the outskirts of the city.
This at least allowed them a quiet opportunity to be with their rightful bishop, as Bishop Ma is under house arrest in the closed up seminary on the outskirts of the city.
Bishop Shen is the vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He is recognised by the Holy See, as well as Beijing.
His appointment to high positions in the two national government bodies at the Ninth Congress of Catholic Representatives held in Beijing in December last year has been interpreted as a friendly sign towards the Vatican, since he does have Holy See recognition.
He was also a rumoured replacement for the birdcage bishop of the city, who has been under house arrest for the past five years.
It is highly unusual for deacons to be ordained priests so quickly, but these are unusual times in Shanghai and call for unusual approaches.
AsiaNews was told it was sad to see the seminarians from Shanghai suffer because of the difficult situation in the diocese, but the fact that the four persisted in their pursuit, which has been made extremely difficult for them, is amazing.
Forty priests, including 30 from Shanghai, or only about one-third of the total with the remainder absent officially because they did not have time to turn up, concelebrated at the ordination Mass and hundreds of people, including the families of those being ordained attended both ordinations.
Bishop Ma was not present. UCAN reported that the services of Bishop Shen were negotiated with the government, but Shanghai people still believe in their hearts that he is their own one and true bishop.
The last ordination for Shanghai took place in Haimen on 24 October 2013, when Father Xie Huimin was ordained, also by Bishop Shen.
He was in Shanghai as well in April 2016, when he led a celebration for the centenary of the birth of the late bishop of the city, Bishop Aloysius Jim Luxian.

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