CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 August 2018

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Is Holy See asking China bishops to step aside?

GUANGZHOU (AsiaNews): Two Vatican-recognised bishops have reportedly been asked to step aside or take on junior positions in favour of illicitly ordained bishops. 
 
Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou, in southern Guangdong, who was ordained in 2006 with Vatican approval, was asked to give way to Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, who was excommunicated in 2011, but is backed by the Chinese government and is a long-time member in the National People’s Congress.
 
This is the second time in three months that the Holy See as asked the 88-year-old Bishop Zhuang to step aside. A letter dated 26 October 2017, had asked the to bishop resign in favour of Bishop Huang whom the Holy See is reportedly going to recognise. 
 
“Bishop Zhuang at that time refused to obey and chose, rather, to ‘carry his cross’ for being disobedient,” a Church source in Guangdong who requested anonymity said.
 
AsiaNews has asked the Vatican for confirmation of the situation. 
 
Sources said the bishop was brought to Beijing and on December 19, went to the headquarters of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and met with Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, Bishop Joseph Shen Bin and Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, the president, vice president and secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church of China.
 
On December 21, Bishop Zhuang reportedly met with a delegation from the Vatican. It is thought that Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, a veteran in China Church affairs, was present.
 
Sources say the archbishop explained that the delegation was attempting to reach an understanding with the Chinese government and the bishop was asked to retire and to allow Bishop Huang to become the legitimate bishop of Shantou.
 
Some bishops in southern China oppose the idea of hastily recognising Bishop Huang. One, who requested anonymity, said that the Vatican had asked for their opinions. 
 
“I did not know the outcome, but this is a bad solution,” he said.
 
Meanwhile in eastern Fujian, a Vatican delegation reportedly met with the illicitly ordained Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu. Sources said that Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin of Mindong, who is with the unofficial Church community, has been asked to be assistant bishop to Bishop Zhan. 
 
Sources also claimed that, while under detention during Holy Week last year, Bishop Guo refused the offer of government recognition in return for signing a document stating his agreement to voluntarily change his status to coadjutor bishop.
 
Bishop Zhan declined to confirm the meeting or disclose details about his recognition progress with the Holy See. He merely said that the Vatican and Chinese officials have regular meetings regarding the negotiations. 

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