state-sanctioned Catholic church has installed its second new bishop to
be appointed without Vatican approval this week. The Chinese Patriotic
Catholic Association ordained Liu Xinhong as bishop of the city of Wuhu
at St. Joseph's Church in the eastern province of Anhui on Wednesday.
Hong Kong's Cable TV showed Liu, dressed in a yellow robe, bowing his head to receive a yellow head piece from a clergyman. "My feeling at this moment is to thank the Lord and our God from the depth of my heart," he said, addressing the congregation.
Most Catholics in Anhui belong to the underground Church and refuse to join the open, state-sanctioned church. However, an "underground" lay leader in Anhui who asked not to be named, told Asian Catholic news agency UCAN on May 2 that his community, as well as many "open Church" Catholics, “will not accept a bishop without papal approval,” adding that “such an ordination will harm Church efforts in evangelization and reconciliation.”
The underground Catholics are mainly spread in the northern and northwestern part of Anhui province, according to the layman.
He also disclosed that public security officers have already tightened control on his group and others warning Catholics “not to create trouble." For this reason, he said, he and several other lay leaders have left home for a few days to avoid government control.
Another underground Church leader told UCAN that the upcoming ordination “openly confronts the Holy See and damages the hierarchy of the universal Church.” This same Catholic said that in defying the order of the Holy See, Father Liu would not gain the support of local Catholics.
Anhui has been without a bishop since Bishop Joseph Zhu Huayu of Bengbu—part of the state-run church--died at 86 in February 2005. The state church combined the province's three dioceses -- Anqing, Bengbu and Wuhu - to form Anhui diocese on July 3, 2001, but the Holy See still regards them as separate dioceses.
On Sunday, China's state church ordained Ma Yinglin as bishop of the southwestern province of Yunnan.
Most Chinese Catholics are only allowed to worship in government-controlled churches, but an estimated 10 million are loyal to the Vatican. Formal Sino-Vatican ties would give some security to China's Vatican loyalists, who are frequently fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.