Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwei of Hanzhong, in Shaanxi Province, was ordained a coadjutor bishop on August 28, 2019, at the age of 44.
He serves the Diocese of Hanzhong as coadjutor to 91-year-old Bishop Louis Yu Runchen. The diocese was divided between underground and state-approved Catholic communities for many years. Yu Runchen was selected by the Chinese Patriotic Association to be bishop without the approval of the Holy See in 1985, a year after the Vatican’s appointment of Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengti. The Vatican recognized Yu only after the underground bishop died in 2009.
After his ordination in 2002, Xu studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 2004 to 2008. He undertook further studies in the Diocese of Vancouver, Canada. Upon returning to China in 2010, he was appointed pastor of West Street Cathedral in the Diocese of Hanzhong.
Xu was a member of a regional Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference -- the consultative political body part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front -- in 2012 and 2017, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Whose excommunications were lifted?
With the signing of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China in Sept. 2018, Pope Francis also lifted the excommunication of seven bishops who had been appointed illicitly by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Association.
They include Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, 52, of Chengde in Hebei Province. Pope Francis created the Diocese of Chengde in 2019 out of the Dioceses of Jinzhou and Chifeng in 2018, so that Guo could lead his own diocese after his excommunication was lifted.
Guo participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2018 and has served three terms as a deputy to the National People’s Congress in Beijing.
As a member of China’s legislative body, Bishop Guo publicly supported an amendment to eliminate presidential term limits and enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in the Chinese constitution in March 2018.
“My position as a national legislator will not and cannot affect my religious service, as China implements the principle of separation of church and state,” Guo told the state-sponsored newspaper Global Times at the National People’s Congress in 2018.
Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, 61, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. After underground Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin stepped aside to allow him to lead the diocese, Zhan led a delegation of 33 priests from the Diocese of Mindong to participate in a “formation course” at the Central Institute of Socialism, in collaboration with the United Front of Fujian Province, where they listened to presentations on the “sinicization of religion.”
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“We must contribute to the creation of a new reality in the diocese of Mindong and in the Catholic Church of Fujian,” Zhan said after the course, according to Asia News.
“We will deepen the content of Catholic doctrine in order to foster social harmony, progress and a positive culture. To carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path that conforms to socialist society,” Zhan said in August 2019.
Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin, 56, of Leshan in Chongqing Province. Lei served as an official delegate at the government’s Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2018. He previously served as a vice president of the Patriotic Association.
After his excommunication was lifted, Lei was a speaker at a 2019 celebration of the Chinese Red Army’s Long March, led by Mao Zedong, in which he spoke of a meeting convened by Mao in a (requisitioned) Catholic priest’s house in Moxi in 1935 as a story of “patriotism of our country’s Catholicism,” according to the Catholic Patriotic Association website.
Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, 53, of Shantou in Guangdong Province. After he was appointed by the government without papal permission in 2011, Huang became vice president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
He served as a deputy in the most recent National People’s Congress, as well as the National People’s Congress that took place from 2008 to 2013.