China Church and News
Compiled by Sergio Ticozzi, PIME
Death of Bishops
- April 2: Death of Bp. Thomas Zeng Jingmu (曾景牧, 1920-2016), Bishop emeritus of Yujiang, Jiangxi.
- May 8: Death of Bp. Thomas Zhang Huaixin (張懷信 1925-2016), Bishop of Anyang (Weihui) Diocese, Henan.
- July 30: Death of Bp. Vincent Huang Shoucheng (黃守誠 1923-2016), Bishop of Mindong (Funing ) Diocese, Fujian.
- September 7: Death of Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang (朱維方1927-2016), bishop of Wenzhou Diocese, Zhejiang.
- September 25: Death of Bp. Anthony Xu Jiwei (徐吉偉1935-2016), bishop of Linhai (Taizhou) Diocese, Zhejiang.
- October 27: Death of Bishop Francis Tong Hui (童輝1933-2016), retired bishop of Yan’an (Yulin), Shaanxi.
- November 10: Episcopal ordination of Fr. Peter Ding Lingbin (丁令斌, 1962-) as ordinary Bishop of Changzhi Diocese, Shanxi, recognized by both the Holy See and the Chinese authorities.
- November 30: Episcopal ordination of Fr. Joseph Tang Yuange (唐遠閣, 1963-) as ordinary bishop of Chengdu, recognized by both the Holy See and the Chinese authorities.
- November 30: Episcopal ordination of Fr. John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun (王曉勳, 1966-), as coadjutor bishop of Ankang, Shaanxi, recognized by both the Holy See and the Chinese authorities.
- December 2: Episcopal ordination of Fr. John Lei Jiapei (雷家培, 1970-) as ordinary bishop of Xichang, Sichuan, recognized by both the Holy See and the Chinese authorities.
- January 14-15: In a meeting held in Beijing, China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), which made ID papers for registered Buddhist monks compulsory in 2016, plans to do the same for Daoist and Catholic priests this year.
- January 16: The results of Taiwan elections with the victory of Tsai Ying-Wen (蔡英文) as president and the Catholic vice-president Chen Chien-Jen (陳建仁) could have an impact on Vatican-China relations.
- January 17: Gianni Valente of Vatican Insider published an interview with Card. John Tong on‘Sinicization’ of the Catholic Church in China.
- January 20: According to Fides News Agency, the Chinese Business View of Shaanxi province, expressed great appreciation on the front page for two initiatives led by Catholic volunteers: the "Soup Kitchen of Charity" and the "Soup Kitchen of Mercy of the Yellow River" in two parishes of the archdiocese of Xi'an. The "Soup Kitchen of Charity" was founded three years ago, and every Sunday offers lunch to the homeless, as well as to migrant workers and farmers.
- January 23: At the 440th anniversary of the foundation of the Macau Diocese, Bp. Stephen Lee Bun-Sang (李斌生), former auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong, was installed as the new Bishop of Macau, was held. He was appointed on January 16 after the retirement of Bp. Joseph Li Hongsheng (黎鴻升) due to health reasons.
- January 25-26: The third round of negotiations between the representatives of the Vatican and the Chinese Foreign Ministry were held in Rome.
- February 2: Pope Francis granted an extensive interview to the online daily Asia Times, Hong Kong, to mark the occasion of the upcoming Chinese New Year: he took the opportunity to express his best wishes to President Xi Jinping and all the Chinese people, and his high esteem for the Chinese people and their culture. On February 3, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, commented: “China is sincere about improving relations with the Vatican and has made consistent efforts … We also hope the Vatican takes a flexible and pragmatic attitude and creates conditions to improve bilateral relations.” On February 4, the Global Times invited the Vatican to accept the autonomy of the Church in China.
- February 25: Chinese officials in Wenzhou Diocese, Zhejiang Province removed the cross of Zhuangyuan Church in Yongqiang parish just before dawn. It was the first case for the Catholic Church this year, following other cases for Protestant Churches.
- February 25: An article in Global Times commented on the last visit to China in early February of the American Cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick. It was a trip to visit some "old friends," not in "an official capacity.”
- February 25: Leaders of the two government-controlled Catholic organizations in China, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, met with government officials and endorsed the “work plan for 2016.” They confirmed that they would ordain bishops “under the leadership of the government,” require all the clergy to register in the open church, and to prepare for the Ninth National Assembly of Catholic Representatives.
- March 2: The Macau Daily Times reported that Bishop Stephen Lee (李斌生) was concerned about the Chinese Central Government's recent refusal of a request by the University of St. Joseph, a local Catholic University, to receive at least 60 mainland students as part of its plan to grow its current student body of 1300.
- March 3-14: Third Session of the 12th Chinese Political People's Consultative Conference (CPPCC) with 2.153 delegates in attendance. Among them were seven Catholic Bishops, namely Bps. Ma Yinglin (馬英林), Fang Xingyao (方興耀), Lei Shiyin (雷世銀), Li Shan (李山), Zhan Silu (詹思祿), Shen Bin (沈斌), Meng Qinglu (孟清錄), and one layman Liu Yuanlong (劉元龍).
On the sideline of the CPPCC Session, Bp. Joseph Fang Xingyao (方興耀) told Hong Kong's Cable TV on March 11 that the ongoing campaign in which 1,700 crosses have been removed and several churches destroyed in Zhejiang since late 2013 is not a national policy, and does not amount to a religious persecution. On March 16, China Daily reported an interview with the Catholic lay leader Liu Yuanlong (劉元龍) on the critical shortage of seminarians in China.
- March 5-15: Among the 3.000 delegates of the Third Session of the 12th National People's Congress were three Catholic Bishops, namely Fang Jianping (方建平), Guo Jincai (郭金才) and Huang Bingzhang (黃炳章).
- March 6: According to Taiwan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leo Chen-jan Lee (李澄然), at a Mass celebrating the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis in Taipei's Immaculate Conception Cathedral, announced that ties between the Republic of China and the Holy See were going from strength to strength, and that the two sides will continue bilateral cooperation.
- March 21: More than 300 Catholics of Huangchuan (潢川) parish in Xinyang (信陽) Diocese, led by two priests, demonstrated at the local government offices to protest against the occupation of Church properties and the beating of a nun. Xinyang Diocese is now under the care of Zhumadian (駐馬店) Diocese.
- March 24: German President Joachim Gauck visits the cathedral in Xi'an on Holy Thursday. Bp. Anthony Dang Mingyan introduced him to the diocese's charitable works, and described the general situation of the Church. On March 23 in a speech to students at Tongji University in Shanghai, Gauck criticized Communist rule in East Germany: “Under Communist rule, most people were neither happy nor liberated, and the entire system lacked proper legitimacy.”
- March 27: On Easter Sunday, all churches in Beijing were overcrowded. Large TV screens were set up alongside the church's doorway for the convenience of late arrivals. About 20,000 new Catholics were baptized in China during the Easter season, according to the Chinese publication, Faith Press.
- March 29: During the visit to Prague of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Dominik Cardinal Duka (Archbishop of Prague) handed him a letter containing an appeal to respect human rights and allow religious freedom in China. Card. Duka also gave Xi Jinping a book of illustrations by Czech artist Bohuslav Reynek, whose works with religious themes were recently displayed in Beijing.
- April 2: Death of Bp. Thomas Zeng Jingmu (曾景牧, 1920-2016), Bishop emeritus of Yujiang, Jiangxi. After he fell to the ground and hit his head, he was admitted to the hospital, where he was denied the right to receive visitors, and soon died. Government officials granted only four days to Catholics to pay him their last respects. Born in 1920, Bp. Zeng was ordained a priest in 1949, and was secretly consecrated a bishop in 1990. He was arrested several times, and spent some 23 years in prison, for, among other reasons, his refusal to join the CCPA. In 2000, he joined the Dominican Order. He retired as bishop in 2012. According to the Government, the diocese of Yujiang has been merged with that of Nanchang.
- April 6: After eight years as the charge d'affaires
at the Vatican Nunciature in Taiwan, American-born Msgr. Paul Russell was appointed Nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan. He was ordained bishop on June 3 in Rome. Msgr. Sladan Cosic, who arrived in Taiwan in October 2015, took his place in Taipei.
- April 14: Fr. Yang Jianwei (楊建偉), parish priest of the church of Anzhuang (安庄), Baoding Diocese, was taken away around midday at Dingqing (丁青), while visiting some Catholics. Since April 2, four priests of Xuanhua (宣化) Diocese have also been detained. Two of them were released on April 15, after undergoing patriotic indoctrination. There is no news of the others.
- April 22-23: Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a National Conference on Religious Work in Beijing, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. He called on all authorities to stick to the Communist Party's religious policy and to improve religious work. Religious affairs carry“special importance”in the work of the CPC and the central government. He promised to fully implement the Party's policy of religious freedom, manage religious affairs in line with laws, retain the principle of religious independence and self-administration, and help religions to adapt to the socialist society. The official trend is toward‘Sinicization of Religion,’President Xi said. Authorities should work to unite religious and non-religious people, and guide the religious ones to love their country and to protect the unity of their motherland. Religious groups, meanwhile, must adhere to the leadership of the Party and support the system of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.
- April 24: Leading a prayer service attended by about 100 people in front of China's Hong Kong Liaison Office, retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (陳日君) of Hong Kong called on Beijing to end the persecution of Christians and allow religious freedom. On the same day Hong Kong's diocesan Justice and Peace Commission announced the conclusion of a petition campaign, which collected 800 signatures, to ask Pope Francis to pray for religious freedom and an end to religious persecution in China.
- April 27: After the general audience in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Francis received a group of 23 parish priests from the People's Republic of China, who had just finished a course on pastoral issues at the Verbiest Institute of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
- April 27: Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin (馬達欽) of Shanghai was refused permission to attend a commemorative Mass for the 3rd anniversary of the death of Bp. Aloysius Jin Luxian (金魯賢).
- May 2: Bp. Joseph Xu Honggen (徐宏根) presided over the ceremony to consecrate the tallest church in China, a boat-shaped structure planned 12 years ago, in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. About fifty priests concelebrated the Mass.
- May 4: Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in an interview with Italian magazine San Francesco that relations between China and the Vatican“are in a positive phase,” and that there are signs that the two parties intend to pursue a dialogue in order to find solutions to the problems of the Catholic Church in China.
- May 8: Death of Bp. Thomas Zhang Huaixin (張懷信, 1925-2016), Bishop of Anyang (former Weihui) Diocese, Henan. He was born in 1925 near Anyang, entered the minor seminary in 1932 and the Kaifeng Regional seminary in 1942. He was ordained priest on 19 October 1950. From 1952 to 1955 he was sent to take care of the Diocesan Procure in Tianjin. From 1955 he carried on ministry in Anyang until 1958 when he was detained and sentenced to be reeducated through labor. In 1980 he was rehabilitated and returned to work in Anyang. On 19 October 1981, he was secretly ordained a bishop. He cared in particular for the formation of the clergy and for the development of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. He succeeded in having his successor Bp. Zhang Yinlin (張銀林) legally ordained his coadjutor on 4 August 2015.
- May 12: Death of the former Apostolic Administrator of the Zhengzhou Diocese, Fr. Zhang Kuijin (張魁進, 1921-2016).
- May 14: According to Xinhua, eight wood blocks of a world map drawn by the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci more than 400 years ago were put on display in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, until July 24. According to the curator of the museum, Matteo Ricci made the map, but the blocks were carved by his friend Li Yingshi (李應試).
- May 18: The Global Times reported “China, Vatican increase talks over bishop appointments” referring to the closed-door negotiations held in Beijing on the last week of April, the second meeting in 2016. In it, Vatican's delegates proposed to set up a stable working group in order that“both sides can study thorny issues one by one.”“The increased frequency has demonstrated the two sides’ willingness for more dialogue to seek solutions to their concerns. Such channels of communication can help enhance mutual understanding of each other's concerns, if not to immediately improve Sino-Vatican relations,”Wang Meixiu (王美秀), a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the
- May 22-24: Three seminars were organized in Hong Kong for the Day of Prayer for the Church in China by the Justice and Peace Commission together with the Holy Spirit Study Centre: on May 22 at St. Jerome Church, Tin Shui Wai, and on May 24 at both St. Teresa's Church and St. Jude's Church.
- May 24: Bp. Ma Yinglin (馬英林), Kunming's illegitimate bishop (for the second time after 2006), ordained nine new priests on the Day of Prayer for the Church in China. Two other new priests were ordained respectively by Bp. Wu Junwei (武俊維), of Yuncheng, Shanxi, and by Bp. He Zeqing (何澤清), of Wanzhou, Chongqing.
- June 2: China's State Council Information office issued a white paper, entitled Freedom of Religious Belief in Xinjiang, stating that the country upholds the principle of independence and self-management in religious undertakings, and that China will never allow any foreign organization or individual to interfere with internal religious affairs.
- June 6: Authorities in Hebei province barred Catholics in Handan Diocese from holding a “Day of Repentance”, called by Bp. Stephen Yang Xiangtai, following the desecration of a parish church in Xiao Di Ba on May 27. The tabernacle was ransacked and sacred hosts thrown on the ground. Officials detained several priests, in an effort to forestall the liturgy.
- June 12: Shanghai's Catholic Bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, under house arrest for the past four years for refusing to cooperate with the Government authorities, via his blog has dramatically recanted his 2012 decision to resign from the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. By now singing the praises of the government-sanctioned association, he has stunned Chinese Catholics and sent shockwaves through the whole Catholic Church.
- June 19-23: SARA and United Front officials organized a Catholic workshop in Beijing, attended by about 150 bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders, to learn the“spirit”of the recent National Conference on Religious Work. The workshop is a further example of interference by the CPC into church affairs. It also seems to be SARA's response to a recent inspection by the party's anti-corruption watchdog, which criticized the administrative body's loose control over national religious groups. The workshop received a mixed response from the participants.
- June 23: Bps. Ma Yinglin (馬英林) and Yang Xiaoting (楊曉亭) led 34 seminarians, who had just graduated from their theological studies at the National Seminary in Beijing, to visit and meet the officials of SARA.
- July 1: In Zhejiang, civil authorities were reported to have recently demanded that some churches hand over all their income and donations to the government as part of a campaign to implement official regulations, known as the“five transformations.” As a result, the government established office space within churches and assigned officials to closely regulate them. The new rules, with the request that the churches hand over all their offerings, have been implemented in Pingyang County (平陽縣), in the Wenzhou Diocese.
- July 14: Reuters published a report entitled: “After decades of mistrust, Pope pushes for diplomatic breakthrough with China.” It states that Pope Francis is leading a determined push to change the relationship between the Vatican and China. The core dispute between the Holy See and China’s Communist leaders seems to be the fate of eight illegitimate bishops. However, the talks face internal resistance on both sides.
- July 18: Ucanews announced that “China steps up moves to control the church.” The contents say that Chinese authorities have cranked up their propaganda machine regarding the “Sinicization of Religion.”
- July 18-19: A Symposium was held in Zhengzhou on the Historical Development and Recent Situation of Dioceses in the Chinese Church, organized by the Centre for the Study of Christianity of the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute of Religious Culture of the Anyang Normal University in Henan.
- July 20: According to AsiaNews, Chinese sources reported that authorities have prevented dozens of youngsters and priests from several dioceses in China from taking part in the 31st World Youth Day, held at Krakow, Poland from 26 to 31 July, and meeting Pope Francis. In the Beijing airport, Chinese authorities blocked a group of 50 young pilgrims who had already boarded a plane bound for Poland. Meanwhile, in Zhouzhi, Shaanxi, the Franciscan community organized and led a camp (15-23 July) for young Chinese Catholics so they could be in spiritual communion with Pope Francis and the young Catholics gathering in Krakow, with the slogan “Follow Saint Francis and live the Jubilee.”
- July 21: The 10th Annual Gathering of the Ecclesiological Investigation International Research Network opened in Hong Kong. The international gathering chose “Christianity and Religions in China—Past, Present and Future” as its theme. The Anglican Ming Hua Theological College and the Centre for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong hosted the gathering.
- July 22: Thirty Chinese priests, religious and lay faithful began an 8-week summer course, organized by Verbiest Institute at KULeuven (Belgium). The program included lectures on Pastoral Catechesis, Catholic Social Ethics, Pastoral Counseling, and Spirituality from East and West. The course ended with a forum on “Religion and the Rule of Law” on September 6-7.
- July 30: Death of Bp. Vincent Huang Shoucheng (黃守誠, 1923-2016), Bishop of Mindong (Funing) Diocese. Although unrecognized by the Chinese government, he was liked by both official and underground Catholics as a humble and capable pastor. In more than 60 years of priesthood, Bp. Huang spent 35 of them in prison, house arrest or forced labor. He was born in 1923 near Fu'an, Fujian. In 1935 he entered the minor seminary in Funing, and later the major seminary in Fuzhou. On 26 June 1949, he was ordained priest. After a period of teaching at the seminary and serving as a parish priest, he was arrested in November 1955 in Fuzhou, and spent the next four years in prison, followed by more time in forced labor camps. He returned home in 1971, but was arrested for a second time in December 1972, for writing some catechetical books. Sentenced to eight years in prison, he was released in January 1980 and returned to Fu'an. In 1985, he was consecrated coadjutor bishop and underwent police controls and house arrest. In July 1990, he was arrested and jailed for a third time. But in August 1991, the sentence was suspended because of his ill health. On 20 August 2005, he took over the diocese of Mindong. On 28 December 2008, he consecrated his successor Bp. Vincent Guo Xijin (郭希錦).
- August 7: Sunday Examiner published Card. John Tong's paper,“The Communion of the Church in China with the Universal Church,”dated July 31. The bishop of Hong Kong gave an in-depth explanation of the Holy See's reasons for continuing dialogue with Beijing: namely, to ensure greater religious freedom for the Catholic communities; to re-establish unofficial and imprisoned bishops and reinstate illicit bishops. On the following day, the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said:“We are willing to continue having constructive dialogue with the Vatican side.”
Several other reactions both from in and outside China were recorded. Some appreciated the clarity of Card. Tong’s position, while others criticized his too optimistic approach. On August 5, the South China Morning Post published the article “Beijing, Vatican Reach Initial Accord on Appointment of Bishops,” interpreting the text of John Cardinal Tong Hon as the announcement of an agreement between the Vatican and Chinese officials.
- August 8: Vatican Insider published an interview with Bp. Wei Jingyi (魏景儀), unofficial Bishop of Qiqihar, Heilongkiang, who expressed his hope for positive changes through a true conversion of all.
- August 8-10: The 8th symposium on Diocesan Administration was held in Beijing, organized by the official Catholic leaders for 30 bishops and administrators of 20 dioceses. The main speakers were Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo and Mr. Henry Cappello from the USA.
- August 10-14: In Hong Kong, about 300 young people from all over East Asia began a meeting proposed by the monastic community of Taize on the theme:“the courage of mercy”. The meeting was held on Cheung Chau Island, with participants coming from Hong Kong, Macao, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. From China, they came from various regions, such as Guangdong, Hebei, and Beijing.
- August 18: According to a report of Radio Free Asia, Zhejiang provincial authorities have banned all forms of religious activity in hospitals. A public notice posted at the Central Hospital in Wenzhou City, made patients and their visitors unequivocally aware of the new rules.
- August 24: According to Vatican Insider, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that communication between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China“continues with a spirit of goodwill on both sides”and aims to seek“realistic solutions for the good of everyone”. In a wide-ranging interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper
Avvenire, Card. Parolin outlined the criteria and objectives of the Holy See in its present relations with representatives of the Chinese government:“The path of mutual understanding and trust takes time, patience and long-sightedness”. He emphasized that the Holy See's primary aim in its communication with Beijing is to make the lives of Catholic faithful in China simpler and to foster reconciliation between “official” and “clandestine” communities.
- August 25: The spokesman of the Foreign Office in an article in Xinhua criticized the Vatican for having received the Taiwan vice president Chen Chien-ren (陳建仁). This was followed by a statement from the Taiwan foreign ministry on August 28.
- August 26: Ucanews reported that on July 14-15, a conference on seminary formation work was held at Chongqing by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops' Conference of Catholic Church in China, to help implement recommendations by the Party's Central Disciplinary Committee. Each seminary had to report the state of their ideological and political education in order to correct issues identified by the official inspection of the Committee. Also on the agenda was the revision of“Teaching Materials for the Independent and Self-governing Catholic Church in China,”originally compiled by the CCPA in 2002, but now containing a stronger political emphasis. Other matters included the qualification for seminary teachers, the conferring of academic degrees and the promotion of vocations.
- September 2: In view of the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Father John Worthley, at a conference in Rome, shared details about his efforts as her emissary in China in the three attempts Mother Teresa made to set up a community of her Sisters in China. Mother Teresa’s three visits to China were “heartbreaking” experiences, as she was successively denied permission to initiate work, despite well-prepared ground breaking efforts, in Beijing (1985), Shanghai (1993) and Hainan (1994). “Reconciliation between China and the universal Church was a dream of Mother Teresa's,” said Father Worthley, who described her three disappointments as “holy sacrifices.”
- September 5: The official inauguration ceremony for the new 2016-2017 school year was held at the National Theological Seminary in Beijing. The new vice rector Bp. Yang Xiaoting, who presented the year work plan to the participants, presided at the ceremony. In attendance were 102 seminarians, of whom 25 were newcomers. Similar events took place during these days in the seven other major seminaries. The number of seminarians of these seminaries are: at Shijiazhuang, Hebei 154 (+ 52 sisters), at Beijing Diocesan 50, at Shenyang 20 (+ 12 sisters), at Xi'an 46, at Wuhan 23, at Jilin 44, and in Sichuan 10 studying philosophy, 51 studying secretarial work. The total number of major seminarians is about 449.
- September 6-7: A symposium on permanent deacons was held in Beijing organized by the National Catholic Seminary in Beijing and the Hebei Faith Institute of Cultural Studies. The majority of Chinese church officials believe that the official community is ready to introduce permanent deacons. Among the 70 participants, there was a delegation from Hong Kong, led by Vicar general Rev. Dominic Chan Chi-Ming (陳志明).
- September 7: Death of Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang (朱維方1927-2016), bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang). Bp. Zhu studied first in the seminaries at Ningbo, Jiaxing and Fuzhou, and finally in Xujiahui Seminary, Shanghai. Ordained a priest in October 1954, he did pastoral work. From 1955 to 1971, he was sent to a forced labor camp. He was arrested again in 1982 and remained in prison until 1988. He was first ordained bishop secretly, but in 2010 he was installed as the official bishop of the diocese. After the Zhejiang government launched a campaign to demolish crosses and churches, he made a strong appeal to the authorities to stop the campaign, and to the universal Church to pray for the Church in China. Bp. Zhu died of cancer. The funeral was held on September 13. His body was cremated and the ashes buried in the church cemetery.
The coadjutor bishop, Bp. Peter Shao Zhumin (邵祝民), who is not recognized by the government, and who until now has been responsible for the underground community, should have succeeded Bp. Zhu. However on August 23, Bp. Shao and his secretary were detained by the police and taken out of Zhejiang Province. This was done to prevent Bp. Shao from presiding at the funeral of Bp. Zhu. In September, two other priests were taken away. The government also banned the underground priests from the funeral. Bp. Shao was released and on September 21 went back to Wenzhou. But he was taken away again after the death of Bp. Xu Jiwei (徐吉偉) of Taizhou, and returned to Wenzhou on October 8.
- September 7: The State Council Legislative Affairs Office of the Chinese Government released a draft of new Regulations for Religious Affairs for a one-month period of public consultation. The amendments are part of the overall strategy of SARA to reinforce its control over religions, minorities and any potential sources of social disruption.
- September 11: The private installation of the underground priest, Fr. Dong Guanhua (董關華) as “bishop” of Zhengding took place. He informed the Catholics that in 2005 an old bishop had ordained him a bishop; and that on September 7 he himself had ordained Fr. Zhang Guoqing, an underground priest of Heilongjiang, as a bishop. But he did not give any details. On September 13, Bp. Jilius Jia (賈治國), the unofficial bishop of Zhengding, sent him a written declaration that, according to the Canon Law, he had incurred excommunication reserved to the Holy Father. From December 9-14, security officials took Fr Dong on a tour, and told not to ordain any other persons.
- September 25: Death of Bp. Anthony Xu Jiwei (徐吉偉1935-2016), bishop of Linhai/Taizhou Diocese, Zhejiang. He was born on April 2, 1935 in Ningbo, and ordained a priest on November 21, 1985. He was transferred to Taizhou in March 1999, and elected administrator. He was ordained bishop on July 10, 2010, four years after obtaining the approval of the Holy See. He founded the local Patriotic Association, but with a special statute of loyalty to the Holy See.
- September 26: According to the website chiesa.espressonline.it, during the informal talks of Card. Parolin with the Pontifical Nuncios in mid-September in Rome, he stated that the negotiations with Beijing dealt only with the choice and appointment of bishops and not diplomatic relations. For the first time, according to the Cardinal, Beijing has accepted a role for the Holy See in the matter of the appointment of bishops. The Chinese Bishops Conference would propose the names of candidates for the approval of the Holy See. But first two problems must be resolved: the official recognition of the unofficial bishops and the pardon of the eight illegitimate bishops.
- September 28-29: The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences together with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, organized an international symposium at the Vatican entitled “A Joint Consultation on Laudato Si' and the Path to COP [Conference of Parties] 22.” Among the guests, was a delegation from the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (中國生物多樣性保護與綠色發展基金會). On behalf of its president, the head of the delegation presented Pope Francis with a gift, which was a copy of the Nestorian Stele of Xi'an.
- October 1-4: St. Francis Cathedral of Xi'an in China's Shaanxi Province celebrated its 300th anniversary. Thousands of people attended the four-day event, which included music, lectures, a cultural show, the installation of a relic of St. Francis of Assisi and the unveiling of a copy of the Nestorian Stele.
- October 5: Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen (徐宏根) of Suzhou, Jiangsu province, met Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, Rome.
- October 10: The China Joint Association of the Heads of National Religious Organizations (全國性宗教團體聯席會議) was established in Beijing. The representative of the Catholic Church was Bp. Ma Yinglin.
- October 12-13: The Commission for theological research of the Chinese Catholic Bishops' Conference held its fourth symposium at the National Major Seminary in Beijing. The topic for discussion at the conference was “Inculturation and the Sinicization of Religion.”
- October 18-19: More than 40 clergy, sisters and laypeople of Anyang Diocese held a protest in the city of Tianjin in a bid to seek compensation for a property of theirs in the city, which was demolished without notice. The protesters waved banners and sang hymns in front of the office of the district committee.
- October 24-28: The Cultural Research Centre of Xianxian Diocese together with the Verbiest Institute organized the first diocesan course on Catholic Social Doctrine, with 33 participants.
- October 27: Death of Bishop Francis Tong Hui (童輝, 1933-2016), a retired bishop of Yan'an (formerly Yulin), Shaanxi, from lung infection. He was 83 and recognized by both the Vatican and the Chinese government. Bishop Tong developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and had not been able to celebrate public Mass since 2009. Bp. Tong, was a native of Lintong, Shaanxi and was born on Aug. 15, 1933. He was ordained a priest in December 1956. He was arrested and imprisoned by the regime in 1965. Released 15 years later in January 1980, he served as a parish pastor in several parishes in the Xi'an diocese (Shaanxi). In 1993, he became a vicar general of Yulin diocese, then headed by Bishop Wang Zhenye (王振業, 1914-1999). On March 19, 1994, he was ordained coadjutor bishop. On April 25, 1999, he became the ordinary of the diocese. In 2010, John Baptist Yang Xiaoting (楊曉亭) was ordained his coadjutor bishop. On March 25, 2011, Bp. Tong officially retired.
- November 6: People from Mindong/Funing (閩東/福寧) Diocese, Fujian, reported that in the morning Bp. Guo Xijin (郭希錦), Vicar general Zhu Ruci (朱如慈) and diocesan secretary Xu Wenming (徐文明) have been taken away. No reason was given for their arrest.
- November 7: Declaration of the Holy See Press Office issued concerning the episcopal ordination and installation as bishop of Fr. Dong Guanhua. It stated: “The Holy See has not authorized any ordination, nor has it been officially informed of such events. If such an episcopal ordination has occurred, it would constitute a grave violation of canonical norms.”
- November 10: Episcopal ordination of Fr. Peter Ding Lingbin (丁令斌, 1962-), as ordinary bishop of Changzhi, Shanxi, presided over Bp. Joseph Li Shan (李山), bishop of Beijing, with all other participating bishops in communion with the Pope. Bp. Ding received his degree in medicine and until 1988 worked as a medical doctor. In 1992 he finished his studies at the Wuhan seminary (Hubei), and was a ordained priest. From 1995 to 2011 he was president of the Saint Anthony Dispensary, owned by the diocese, for medical service to the general population, especially the poor. In 2011, he was secretary of the diocese and then apostolic administrator. In 2013, the Holy See approved him to be bishop.
- - November 13: The Holy Father appointed His Exc. Mgr. Michael Yeung Ming-Cheung (楊鳴章), titular Bishop of Monte di Numidia and Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong, as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong.
- November 15: According to a Ucanews report, the latest round of China-Vatican negotiations, after the April and August meetings, is believed to have taken place in Rome in the first week of November and the two sides appear to be closing in on a long-hoped for agreement on the appointment of bishops. Media speculation was rife throughout October as the meeting was expected to take place at the end of this month.
- November 22-23: The Shijiazhuang Faith and Culture Research Institute and Hong Kong Yuandao Association together organized a symposium at Beijing's People's University, with the participation of Catholic delegates from China and Hong Kong. The topics for discussion were“One Road and One Belt”and“Sino-Vatican Relations.”
- November 30: Fr. John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun (王曉勳, 1966-) was ordained coadjutor bishop of the Ankang Diocese, Shaanxi, in the local cathedral. Bp. Yang Xiaoting presided at the ceremony and five other bishops from dioceses of Shaanxi, all in communion with the Pope and recognized by the government, concelebrated. The papal mandate was read in a private gathering of all the priests, before the ordination Mass. The ordinary bishop Ye Ronghua, 85, has been ill for some time, and could not take part in the ceremony. 50 priests from different dioceses, 30 Sisters and more than 200 faithful attended the ceremony. Bp. Wang Xiaoxun was born in 1966 and completed his studies at the Xi'an seminary. Ordained priest by the deceased bishop of Xi'an Bp. Anthony Li Duan in 1992, he served several parishes. In 2005 he was appointed parish priest of the Ankang cathedral. He had been elected coadjutor bishop on October 13, 2010.
- November 30: The episcopal ordination of Fr. Joseph Tang Yuange (唐遠閣, 1963-) as ordinary bishop of Chengdu, recognized by both the Holy See and the Chinese authorities, was held at the Ping’an Bridge Cathedral. Bp. Fang Xingyao of Linyi, Shandong was the main consecrator, and he was assisted by other bishops of Sichuan and Guizhou. Unfortunately the excommunicated Bp. Lei Shiyin of Leshan also participated in the ordination ceremony. Bp. Tang, 53, was appointed bishop of Chengdu in May 2014. A native of Sichuan, he studied in the Sichuan regional seminary in Chengdu. Ordained a priest in April 1991, he has always served in the diocese of Chengdu.
- December 2: Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi, Shandong was the chief celebrant at the ordination of Father John Lei Jiapei (雷家培, 1970-) as Bishop of Xichang, Sichuan Province at the Sanyajie Catholic Church. All the bishops of Sichuan and Guizhou, including the newly-ordained Bp. Tang Yuange of Chengdu assisted in the ceremony. Again the ceremony was marred by the participation of the excommunicated Bp. Lei Shiyin of Leshan. Bishop Lei Jiapei was born in June 1970, was ordained priest in 1995, and in 2010, was elected diocesan administrator.
- - December 2: A seminar, hosted by the Chinese Christian Spirit Community in Taipei, declared that the Catholic Church in Taiwan should play a bridge role between the Vatican and Beijing, as well as between the government-sanctioned and the underground church communities in China.
- December 6-8: The Ninth Forum on Catholic Studies for young Chinese scholars was held in Beijing, under the direction of Fr. Peter Zhao Jianmin, vicar general of the Beijing Archdiocese, and director of the “Beijing Sapientia Institute for the Study of Christianity and Culture.” Ninety-six Chinese scholars of religion participated in the Forum. They addressed issues of dogmatic theology, moral theology, the inculturation of theology, Catholic ecology, anthropology, exegesis of sacred Scripture, history, Catholicism of Chinese ethnic minorities, publications and Catholic press, and the study of dialogue between religion and art.
- - December 20: The Vatican spokesperson made public a written declaration of the Holy See. It said that the Holy See “understands and shares” the pain of Chinese Catholics over the Chengdu and Xichang episcopal ordinations in the presence of an illegitimate bishop. At the same time, while reaffirming the “well known” Catholic position regarding the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, the Holy See, is expecting “positive signs” from the Chinese authorities, and “will make its judgments on the basis of established facts.”
- December 24-25: In big cities large crowds took part in Christmas celebrations, as showcases of religious freedom in China, with long hours of queuing up for a security check. In contrast, underground Catholic communities in other places across China faced a different ordeal: in the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Inner Mongolia, individual underground communities were banned from celebrating Mass on Christmas Eve.
- December 26-30: The Ninth National Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives was held in Beijing, with 365 delegates (59 bishops, 164 priests, 30 sisters and 112 lay and civil officials). Its second day ended with most of the present leaders re-elected for another five-year term. Bishop Ma Yinglin of Kunming and Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi were re-elected as heads of the BCCC and the CCPA respectively.
The vice presidents of the BCCC are Bishops Fang Xingyao, Shen Bin of Haimen, Zhan Silu of Mindong, Fang Jianping of Tangshan, Guo Jincai of Chengde, Pei Junmin of Shenyang, Li Shan of Beijing, Yang Xiaoting of Yulin (Yan’an), He Zeqing of Wanzhou (Wanxian) and Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun.
The vice presidents of the CCPA are Bishops Ma Yinglin, Shen Bin, Lei Shiyin of Leshan, Liu Yuanlong (lay leader), Bishop Huang Bingzhang of Shantou, Shu Nanwu (lay leader of Jiangsu), Bishops Yue Fusheng of Heilongjiang and Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, Sister Wu Lin of Wuhan and Shi Xueqin (lay leader of Fujian). Bishop Guo Jincai retains his position as vice president and secretary general of the BCCC but is no longer in a position of leadership in the CCPA. Liu Yuanlong was re-elected as secretary general of the CCPA.
Speaking on December 27, Wang Zuo’an, SARA Director, underlined that in China-Vatican relations, which have long been an issue of general concern, China has always been “clear and consistent in its position” of improving them: “China is willing, on the basis of related principles, to have constructive talks with the Vatican to narrow differences, increase consensus and promote improved relations. The Chinese government hopes that the Vatican takes a more flexible and pragmatic attitude as well as actual steps to create beneficial conditions for improving relations.”
On December 29, Yu Zhengsheng, chair of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a top leader of the Communist Party, met with the Catholic leaders at the Great Hall of the People. Yu told the Ninth Catholic Representative Assembly members that the Party's central committee attaches great importance to religious work, and reiterated the main points of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on the“Sinicization of Religion.”On December 29 the State Administration of Religious Affairs' website published its official statement about the Ninth Assembly of Catholic representatives: it used the word "insist" three times: namely, insisting on the principle of an independent church; insisting that the church be run in a democratic way, as well as promoting a Sinicized theology in connection with the future Chinese Church; and insisting on the building up of talented personnel as a way to sustainably develop the Chinese Church.