Another Chinese bishop, two days after the last

The country has its second ordination in three days after Beijing ratified the Vatican’s recommendation from April reporter, Hong Kong 
August 28, 2019

Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwe (fourth right) at his ordination. (Photo supplied)

The Catholic Church in China has ordained another bishop after the Vatican’s recommendation was ratified by Beijing.

Father Stephen Xu Hongwei, 44, was ordained as coadjutor bishop of Hanzhong in the northern state of Shaanxi on Aug. 28, just two days after the ordination of Bishop Joseph Yao Shun of Jining in Inner Mongolia, the first since the 2018 China-Vatican provisional agreement on bishops’ appointments.

Bishop Xu was approved as a candidate for bishop by the Vatican on April 11 but, just like Bishop Yao before him, had to wait several months for it to be rubberstamped by the government.

The head of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, held the ordination and concelebrated with Bishop Aloysius Yu Runshen of Hanzhong, Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yan’an (Yulin), Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan of Xi’an, Bishop Martin Wu Qinjing of Zhouzhi, Bishop Joseph Han Yingjin of Sanyuan, Coadjutor Bishop John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun of Ankang and Bishop Tong Changping of Weinan.

About 500 people attended the Mass at St. Michael Cathedral in the city of Hanzhong. A local priest, who asked not to be named, told that this ceremony was attended by stronger security than Bishop Yao’s.

“All the participants had to register and some of them were not allowed to take in cameras or video recording devices,” he said.

A parishioner told that a diocesan priest who is still not recognized by the government was not allowed to attend the ceremony and another one was absent “on travel.”  

Bishop Xu duly received an approval statement from the BCCCC, declaring that “after verification and a valid election, we give our official approval now. This candidate was approved by the pope.”

However, following the signing of the China-Vatican deal, the sentence “This candidate was approved by the pope” is a new addition, while another sentence was omitted compared with the old version.

An ordination ceremony should be undertaken within three months of the appointment being approved by the BCCCC, according to church custom, and “once he is ordained, he becomes the formal successor of the apostles and a member of the bishops’ conference.”

Bishop Xu was born on Jan. 16, 1975, in Shaanxi. He studied in a Xi’an seminary in 1996 and was ordained as a priest in Hanzhong in 2002. He graduated with a master’s degree on pastoral theology in Rome in 2008 and served in the Diocese of Vancouver in Canada until 2010.

Hanzhong Diocese has 27 priests, eight nuns and one seminarian serving nearly 20,000 Catholics in 21 churches.

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