Father Peter Luo Xuegang (罗雪刚)
Catholic news portal AsiaNews.it reports that the ordination of a Vatican-approved bishop, Father Peter Luo Xuegang (罗雪刚), will take place tomorrow in the diocese of Yibin in Sichuan province. But here’s where it gets tricky — while the consecrating bishop on paper is the 95-year-old Msgr. John Chen Shizhong, a bishop from the diocese who is in communion with the Vatican, China may want Paul Lei Shiyin, the recently installed bishop of Leshan who is now president of the Catholic Patriotic Association, to take part in the laying on of hands. The participation of Lei, who was excommunicated by the Holy See in July, could render the ordination of the new bishop “illegitimate” according to Vatican rules.
More from AsiaNews.it:
Lei Shiyin’s participation at the ordination of 30 November is almost certain, in fact, he is President of the Patriotic Association and the Committee for the affairs of the Church in the province of Sichuan, with a lot of support among the government authorities that almost certainly will want to impress a “patriotic” and “independent” character on the ceremony, going against the Vatican’s instructions. For the Holy See, Lei Shiyin, being excommunicated latae sententiae, is not entitled to participate in the Eucharist. Several bishops of neighbouring dioceses, who thought to participate in the ordination, are now afraid to participate because of Lei Shiyin.
Fr. Luo Xuegang and Lei Shiyin know each other very well. The first is the nephew of Msgr. Matthew Luo Duxi, bishop of Leshan, who died in 2009. Both were ordained in the same year, 1991 and began their pastoral work in the diocese of Leshan. In 2009, Fr. Luo was transferred to the diocese of Yibin and in 2010 was chosen by the Presbytery of Yibin as a candidate for the succession of Msgr. Chen Shizhong.
And from AP:
At issue is not necessarily whether Lei will attend but the level of his participation, said Anthony Lam, a researcher at the Roman Catholic church-affiliated Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong. If Lei sits in the audience that would be fine, but if he actively takes part in the consecration “that would be a scandal,” said Lam. It might, he said, render the ordination illegitimate.
“He is forbidden according to the papal statement earlier in the year from carrying out any ministry or office so it would be a scandal if he joins as a co-consecrating bishop or a principal consecrator,” he said.
The pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that he hopes the faithful will be told that the Holy See has approved the candidate and that during the ceremony “no illegitimate bishop participates.”
Lombardi said that he had not been informed about the ceremony and Rev. Luo has a papal mandate. If all goes well, “the event would be encouraging for the Catholic Community,” Lombardi said.
If things don’t go well though, everything could be super awkward. China has her way of testing the loyalty of bishops that are in communion with the Pope, pressuring them to take part in the consecration of government-groomed bishops and in extreme cases, even kidnapping them to ensure their attendance. Paul Liang Jiansen, the bishop of Jiangmen who was installed earlier this year, was “seen sobbing as police dragged him away” at an ordination ceremony condemned by the Vatican as “illicit”. Another bishop from Shanghai is said to have cried after taking part in one such ordination, saying he had no more face to meet his flock. Meanwhile, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning is reportedly “suspended” from all national and provincial posts following his refusal to participate in the illicit ordination of the bishop of Shantou.
For more on Catholicism in China, click here.