Rome-approved bishop defies ban

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 May, 2006, 12:00am

Wu Qinjing holds Catholic ceremony at Zhouzhi Cathedral

The Rome-approved bishop of Zhouzhi, Wu Qinjing, in Shaanxi defied authorities and held a Catholic ceremony in his first appearance after his elevation was announced.

Bishop Wu appeared in a priest's robes, not a bishop's, but he wore a red biretta and a ring when he appeared minutes before the celebration of a new cross at Zhouzhi Cathedral on Saturday.

Authorities have met Bishop Wu three times - the last time yesterday - since his elevation was made public last Monday.

The authorities have called his elevation illegal and have said that he could not carry out work in the capacity of a bishop.

'It first came as a suggestion, then a requirement, and an order. It is a final warning,' a Catholic source said. 'Bishop Wu would like to give the government time to acknowledge his legality within the needed process, but at the same time he does not want to compromise his religious belief.'

The latest tussle came amid the consecration of three government-appointed bishops without Holy See approval in recent months. The Holy See has criticised the moves by Beijing, describing them as violation of 'religious liberty'.

The Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper reported yesterday that candidates for bishop in some dioceses in Hubei, Hebei and Inner Mongolia had already been elected and that they could be ordained within three months after the approval of the China Catholic Bishops' College.

'At the moment, there are 41 mainland dioceses that do not have bishops. We will elect and ordain bishops according to the maturity of each diocese. We will ordain one when that diocese is mature. We will not have a blitz or deliberately delay ordinations,' a Beijing source told Wen Wei Po.

The elevation of Bishop Wu, who was secretly ordained by Xian bishop Li Duan in October last year, was announced days before Li died last Thursday. Li was the Apostolic Vicar for Zhouzhi following the death of Zhouzhi bishop Yang Guangyan in 2004.

On Saturday, authorities met priests in Zhouzhi before the ceremony to promulgate the illegality of Bishop Wu's status, according to the Catholic source. They also called for the setting up of a diocesan management group overseen by priest Zhao Yinsheng to displace Bishop Wu, but participating priests opposed.

Zhao Yinsheng is alleged to have engaged in business activities in addition to his church duties. Another Catholic source said the priest had curried favours with government officials and was preparing to have his ordination scheduled for August.