Old guard and illegitimate bishops dominate the new Catholic Assembly

Old guard and illegitimate bishops dominate the new Catholic Assembly


Elizabeth Li

Ma Yinglin and Fang Xingyao are re-elected presidents of the Bishops Council and the Patriotic Association, respectively. The principles of independence, autonomy, self-management and sinicisation [sic; actually ChiCommunization – AQ moderator Tom] are extolled. There is no “positive signal” as hoped by the Vatican.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The new leadership of the two government-sanctioned Catholic Church organizations was elected today (Dec 28), the second day of the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives held in Beijing since yesterday.

The leaders of the Patriotic Association (PA) and Bishops Council are almost the same as those “elected” from the Eighth Assembly, both of a term of 5 years.

Once again, illegitimate Bishop Ma Yinglin of Kunming has been re-elected as the president of the bishops’ council. The papal-approved and Beijing-recognized Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi (Shandong) has been re-elected chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).

Leadership of Bishops’ Council consists of the following bishops as vice presidents: Fang Xingyao of Linyi (Shandong); Shen Bin of Haimen (Jiangsu); [illegitimate] Zhan Silu of Mindong (Fujian); Fang Jianping of Tangshan (Hebei); [illegitimate] Guo Jincai (also as secretary general); Pei Junmin of Liaoning; Li Shan of Beijing; Yang Xiaoting of Yulin (Shaanxi); He Zeqing of Wanzhou, and Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun (Shandong).

CCPA vice presidents are [illegitimate] Ma Yinglin of Kunming (Yunnan); Shen Bin of Haimen (Jiangsu); [illegitimate] Lei Shiyin of Leshan (Sichuan); Liu Yuanlong (layman, also as secretary general); [illegitimate] Huang Bingzhang of Shantou (Guangdong); Shu Nanwu (layman of Jiangxi); [illegitimate] Yue Fusheng of Harbin (Heilongjiang); Meng Qinglu of Hohhot (Inner Mongolia); Sister Wu Lin (of Wuhan) and Shi Xueqin (laywoman of Fujian).

Commenting on the Ninth Assembly, Father Joseph, in Central China, told AsiaNews that the Ninth Assembly has not seen any changes. In addition to the continuous adherence to the principles of independence, autonomy and self-administration, the Assembly also emphasized on “Sinicization” of the Catholic Church in China.

As for the newly-elected leadership of the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” and the “Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China”, it has been almost the same players. Two new faces are Bishop He Zeqing of Wanzhou and Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun (Shandong), both have mandate of the pope and are recognized by the Chinese government.

The status of Bishop Shen Bin has obviously been elevated. He was originally vice chairman of CCPA, and now also vice president of the bishops’ council

Apparently, the “positive signals” expected by the Holy See did not appear; whereas, Wang Zuo’an, director of State Administration for Religious Affairs hopes the Holy See can be “flexible and pragmatic”, and that has become a response to the Vatican statement released prior to the Ninth Assembly.

A China-Vatican relations observer told AsiaNews that same personnel means leaving the matter as it is for the present.

A priest in China commented that the atmosphere of the Ninth Assembly was obviously more relaxed and the tone of Wang Zuo’an’s speech was softer than before.

One observer pointed out that there is no mention or appearance of an elderly illegitimate Bishop Tu Shihua of Puqi, who resides in Beijing.

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One comment on “Old guard and illegitimate bishops dominate the new Catholic Assembly

  1. Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives extolls “independence and autonomy”

    Bernardo Cervellera

    59 bishops present at assembly, as well as the state administration for religious affairs director and members of the United Front. Future changes in the leadership of the Council of Bishops and the Patriotic Association. Extolling of autonomy (from the Holy See), a non-positive sign. The Global Times reiterates preconditions for dialogue. A state church. The criticism of Card. Joseph Zen and Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace. One Catholic: This assembly is a slap in the face to the Vatican.


    Rome (AsiaNews) – In a stifling hotel lounge Tian Tai Beijing, the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, the sovereign body that directs bishops, priests and laity, began yesterday. According to the State Administration there are 365 delegates from 31 provinces and municipalities for Religious Affairs (SARA), although judging the hall’s capacity there seem to be much less. The gathering (the “Great Ninth” as media call it) will last until December 30. Attendees include priests, nuns, lay people, members of the Government (especially the United Front and SARA) and bishops.

    At the last gathering, in December 2010, the Vatican had asked the bishops to “avoid making gestures … that contradict communion with the Pope”. This Assembly had been judged “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”, as it submits the authority of the bishops to the meeting and pursues the ideal of Church independence (from the Holy See).

    This time, perhaps because of rekindled hopes for dialogue between China and the Vatican, the Holy See, while reaffirming its “known” position with regard to the assembly, has not given any indication to bishops whether to participate or not. In a statement released just a few days ago, the Holy See said it reserves the right to judge the Assembly on the basis of “concrete facts” and expects “positive signals” from the government. This position which has been judged as too vague by Chinese Catholics, has given the green light to many bishops to unscrupulously take part in the meeting.

    The bishops present include Msgr. Ma Yinglin of Kunming (Yunnan), president of the so-called Chinese bishops’ conference (not recognized by the Holy See because it does not include underground bishops); Msgr. Fang Xingyao of Linyi (Shandong), vice-president of the Patriotic Association; Msgr. Han Yingjin of Sanyuan (Shaanxi); Msgr. Dang Mingyan Xian (Shaanxi), the newly ordained Tang Yuange of Chengdu (Sichuan); Msgr. Chen Gongao Nanchong (Sichuan); Msgr. Luo Xuegang in Yibin (Sichuan); Msgr. Zhan Silu of Mindong (Fujian); Msgr. Guo Jincai of Chengde (Hebei). Offical reports claim that there are at least 59 bishops, mostly recognized by the Holy See, as well as eight illegitimate and excommunicated bishops who, according to some were supposed to have been reconciled by the end of the Jubilee, but this has not happened. The names of the absent bishops and the reason for their absence is still unknown. In 2010, many bishops who did not participate – following the recommendation of the Holy See – were forced to take part in the Assembly.

    Many Catholics in China look to the meeting as a matter of course and without surprises, but they want to see how the leadership will change. At that meeting in fact the new President of the Council of Bishops will be chosen and the new president of the Patriotic Association.

    Among the possible candidates for the first charge is the name of Msgr. Joseph Shen Bin, 46, bishop of Haimen (Jiangsu), or that of Msgr. John Baptist Yang Xiaoting, 52, bishop of Yulin (Shaanxi).

    Among the candidates for the presidency of the Patriotic Association, is the name of Msgr. Joseph Guo Jincai, 48, the illegitimate bishop of Chengde (Hebei). The first two are both bishops recognized by the Holy See; however the latter is one of eight illegitimate bishops.

    A part from this other issues on the meeting’s agenda include a revision of the regulations on religious activities as well as the amendments to the statutes of the two groups (Bishops and the Patriotic Association).

    Although the themes may not appear very significant, the atmosphere is highly significant: every intervention delivered yesterday exalted the “independence” of the Church (from the Holy See); Its “autonomy” (in theology, in management, in the jurisdiction), the “patriotism” of the faith ( “ai guo, ai hui”: first love the nation, then love the Church), the mantra repeated by Ma Yinglin, Fang Xingyao, Wang Zuoan (director of SARA), etc …

    Another item on the agenda is the assimilation of the President Xi Jinping’s address to the religions in the meeting with the United Front last April. In it he asks the religions “Sinicize themselves” (moving away from the West); to “serve the reform and development of the nation” and to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

    In words, these sentences would seem to open up a future for religions and the Catholic Church at the service of the Chinese people; in reality it unambiguously points to a State church, controlled in all of her movements and projects.

    It was precisely for this reason that Card. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and a great champion of religious freedom, in his blog on December 24, had said that the Chinese government “wants an unconditional submission” of the Church and that the Assembly is “the most formal and explicit expression of the ‘schismatic’ nature of such a Church”.

    This position has also been reiterated by the Hong Kong Justice and Peace Commission which two days ago, December 26, demonstrated in front of China’s representation in Hong Kong, denouncing that the Assembly is contrary to Catholic doctrine.

    What is also of note is the change in tone in the Chinese world. In the days following the Vatican statement, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry began to use very moderate tones regarding the Vatican and the Catholic Church without speaking of issues such as autonomy, independence, of self-appointment of bishops, relations with Taiwan. Yesterday, however, the Global Times newspaper (close to the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily), published an editorial returning to the tones and demands of old, laying out the conditions for a constructive dialogue to arrive to diplomatic relations. These “requirements” are: “recognition of the One China” (break ties with Taiwan) and “no interference in China’s internal affairs”, including the appointment of bishops.

    One Catholic has thus commented: “The Vatican asked for ‘positive signals’ and all it got was a slap in the face. The Assembly extolls the independence of the Church from the Holy See and all dialogue is back to square one”.

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