New bishop admits feeling troubled

A new mainland Catholic bishop named without papal endorsement said he had felt uneasy in the run-up to his appointment yesterday, but vowed to lead his flock to contribute to the building of an affluent socialist society.

The comments by Liu Xinhong, who was named bishop of Wuhu in Anhui province , came as the Holy See maintained its silence on Beijing's fresh round of appointments without Vatican approval, moves which analysts believe will set back warming Sino-Vatican relations. Top Vatican officials were assessing the impact of the latest incidents and remained 'very prudent and careful' before making any statements, according to church sources.

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun condemned Beijing's unilateral appointment of Bishop Ma Yinglin of Yunnan on Sunday and said a strong Vatican reaction was forthcoming.

Church sources said the Holy See was aware that Cardinal Zen was under pressure from pro-Beijing critics, who questioned whether his comments were backed by the Vatican.

Last night Cardinal Zen repeated his call for a halt to diplomatic negotiations on re-establishing Sino-Vatican ties.

'Anyone in the world who can reason can tell who is right and who is wrong. It is clear that we can't talk. [Beijing] has damaged the sincerity,' he said.

Speaking at his first Mass since being made a bishop, Bishop Liu said he felt uneasy before deciding to take up the appointment, but he also thanked God for choosing him to tend his flock.

'Jesus told us in the Bible that when he was praying at the garden [before his arrest and crucifixion], he told our Heavenly Father: if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine,' Bishop Liu said.

'These words repeatedly appeared during my meditation in these past few days. I felt perturbed.'

He said he was glad God had called him to 'put out to deep water' without fear and said he would do the same with his ministry.

In an oath required by the mainland religious authorities, Bishop Liu pledged to follow state laws, uphold national unity and social harmony, and contribute to building an 'affluent society and socialist society'.

According to the State Administration of Religious Affairs, more than 1,000 priests, nuns, faithful and government officials attended the ceremony, held in St Joseph's Cathedral in Wuhu.

Bishop Wu Shizhen of Nanchang , Jiangxi province , officiated at the ceremony together with four other bishops - all recognised by the Holy See and Beijing.

The Holy See rejected Bishop Liu's case to become bishop last month after a lengthy investigation. Bishop Liu declined a similar order for appointment in February, but has now accepted his appointment by the mainland religious authorities.