CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 December 2017

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Two bishops out from the shadows in one week

HONG KONG (SE): In July 2011, Bishop Joseph Sun Jigen played a bit of hide and seek with the government over his episcopal ordination in Handan, when he set a false date for his ordination, for which he had Holy See approval, as July 29.
 
But as the day approached, he announced that in fact he had already been ordained at another location on June 21 in order to prevent illicitly ordained bishops from being present.
 
In the eyes of the Vatican he became the coadjutor of the diocese of Handan.
 
Although he was a member of the official Church community and had permission from the Church and the government to go ahead with the ordination, his fancy footwork in jumping the gun saw him lose his government recognition.
 
But on November 16, he became the second bishop in a week to be given official recognition by the government and installed as the bishop of his diocese in the eyes of the government.
 
The big worry prior to the ordination was the possibility that the illicitly ordained Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, who the Vatican had declared to have suffered automatic excommunication, may have turned up, but the gathering was told that fate had intervened and he had been called away to attend to his sick mother.
 
The installation took place in a rural church and officials tried in vain to squash news of the event.
 
The first one to be brought out of the shadows in one week was f Bishop Joseph Han Zhihai, who was installed as the bishop of the official Church community in Lanzhou by the government, but the validity of this is being questioned around the diocese.
 
Bishop Han had been ordained for the unofficial community in the Lanzhou area of northern China back in 2003, but on November 10 the government installed him as the bishop of the official Church community.
 
In a statement believed to be aimed at his diocesan priests, who by and large boycotted the ordination as they were unsure as to whether it was legitimate or not, he sent out a message over social media saying that the “Holy See is pleased to see such a result.”
 
However, a priest, who does not agree with the decision of Bishop Han being installed as a bishop by the government, said that some of his parishioners do not accept the validity of the bishop’s appointment.
 
He said that they say he will now have to cosy up to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which they consider too close to the government for comfort.
 
The priest himself questioned the installation. “Did the Holy See let the installation happen? Or did the government ask for it? These two things are totally different,” he stated.
 
He questioned whether the stipulations of canon law have been fulfilled or not, but some elements of his argument seem to be difficult to sustain, although the bottom line is clear, he is not ready to accept it.
 
Another priest, who did not want to reveal his name, expressed concern that if Bishop Han follows government policy too closely it will polarise the diocese.
 
The day after his installation, the bishop raised a few eyebrows around the place when he took nearly 80 priests and sisters from Lanzhou, Pingliang and Tianshui to visit the former Communist revolutionary base located in Ciping at Jinggangshan, where historic battles of the revolution took place.

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