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Duterte open to dialogue with bishops after suggesting Filipinos kill them

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Manila, Philippines, Jan 16, 2019 / 12:38 am (CNA).- A government spokesman said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is open to dialogue with the country’s bishops, after the president recently suggested that citizens of the country kill the Church leaders.  

Tensions have increased between Duterte and the bishops as Church leaders have continued to condemn the president’s brutal war on drugs. Since Duterte’s rise to power in 2016, thousands of people have reportedly died in extrajudicial killings.

In a speech on Dec. 5, Duterte said people should “kill and steal” from Catholic bishops, stating “this stupid bunch serve no purpose – all they do is criticize,” according to UCA News.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon and Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga condemned the statement, describing the comments as dangerous and inappropriate remarks that cannot be dismissed as an attempt at humor.

“Again, his mouth has uttered absolutely silly things! And his ‘fans’ consider his murderous words as a mere joke! Is it a joke to advise people to kill?” said Bastes, according to Philstar.

“It is no longer funny and does not deserve laughs or applause from audiences but condemnation. The advice just promotes criminality, encourages lawlessness. What kind of authority that calls for killing?” said Santos.  

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s lawyer and spokesman, responded to the bishops on Jan. 13. He said the president was open to conversation with the Catholic leaders, according to UCA News.

“[Duterte] is up for talks, if that’s what [the bishops] are asking for,” said Panelo. “Anything that is beneficial to the nation, the president is easy to talk to.”

Vicente Sotto III, president of the Philippine Senate, has offered to mediate a discussion between Duterte and the Church leaders, noting that the tension between the parties has citizens in the largely Catholic country worried.

Duterte has a history of criticizing the Catholic Church. He has called the bishops “idiots” and “sons of wh-res” and told the people that they should stay at home and pray rather than attending church services.

According to the president’s spokesman, the context for Duterte’s insults is the sexual abuse he underwent in Catholic school. Duterte has said he was molested by Fr. Mark Falvey, SJ, who has been accused posthumously of serially sexually abusing children. In May 2007, the California province of the Society of Jesus reached a $16 million settlement with at least some of his victims.

Duterte has been accused of “social cleansing” for his bloody war on drugs in the country. The country’s bishops offered to provide sanctuary for any whistleblowers in the Philippine police department who spoke out against various human rights abuses. In response, Duterte said the Church was “full of sh-t.”

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China’s crackdown on Christians continues

January 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A campaign by the Chinese government to ‘Sinicize’ religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches to the east.

In early December, Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in Sichuan province. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest.

The Observer, a sister paper to The Guardian, reported Jan. 13 that Wang’s ecclesial community, Early Rain Covenant Church, has now been closed, and that Wang and his wife remain in detention,charged with inciting subversion. Some members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance.

The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church.

According to The Observer, another church was put under investigation in the Sichuanese capital last week, a Sunday school was raided in Guangzhou in December, and a 1,500-member church in Beijing has been “banned … after its pastor refused to install CCTV.”

Part of the plan to Sinicize Christianity, The Observer reported, is “thought reform”: “The plan calls for ‘retranslating and annotating’ the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text.”

Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization.

In December, two bishops of the underground Catholic Church agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the CPCA, in the wake of a deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

And the month prior, four priests from the underground Church in Hebei province who refused to join the CPCA were taken into police custody for indoctrination.

The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called ‘sinicization’ of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’” Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected.

The September 2018 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the CPCA. The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

In 2017, Xi said that religions not sufficiently conformed to communist ideals pose a threat to the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.” Since he took power, crosses have been removed from an estimated 1,500 church buildings.

And a government official who oversees religious affairs said in April 2018 that government restrictions on bishop appointments are not a violation of religious freedom, as he emphasized that religions in China must “adapt to socialist society.” The official, Chen Zongrong, added that “I believe there is no religion in human society that transcends nations.”

Restrictions put in place in February 2018 made it illegal for anyone under age 18 to enter a church building.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

Muslims, too, have come under pressure from the Chinese government. It is believed that as many as 1 million Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnoreligious group in China’s far west, are being held in extra-legal detention. Mosques in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region have had Islamic icons, Arabic signs, and domes removed.

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What is it like to be a missionary in Mongolia?

January 9, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Jan 10, 2019 / 12:31 am (ACI Prensa).- When Francisco Javier Olivera was born, his mother offered him to the Virgin Mary, praying that he would become a missionary in Asia.

Olivera’s mother told him about the consecration after he was ordained a priest in Japan 22 years ago. Since then, he has served as a missionary, not only in Japan, but in China and Mongolia as well.

Fr. Olivera was born in Salamanca, Spain, 47 years ago. He is a priest of the Neocatechumenal Way and has been a missionary for 28 years.

In an interview with Religión En Libertad, Olivera said his priestly and missionary vocation grew “little by little,” influenced by a series of missionaries and catechists who stayed at his family’s house.  

He also believes that his mother’s prayers made a difference.

“She offered me to Our Lady to be a missionary in Asia. I didn’t know that, she told me in Takamatsu, [Japan] when the celebration of my ordination was over,” the priest said.

The priest said that Japan has been his toughest assignment, because there “you felt more loneliness, even being in a parish,” while China impressed him very much since “the people have a lot of curiosity and if there were freedom it would be amazing.”

After four years of living in Mongolia, he said he still finds the assignment “quite difficult because of the language, the cold, the pollution, the culture, and especially because of all the legal impediments we have, which are many.”

The Catholic Church arrived in Mongolia in 1992, when three missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were sent to the country following the arrival of democracy and safeguards for religious liberty in the country’s constitution.

Later, other congregations of priests and religious arrived, as well as lay missionaries. Today, there are just over 1,200 Catholics.

“The parishes are young in every respect, many young people are being drawn to the Church…We already have the first Mongolian priest ordained two years ago and now we have a deacon,” Olivera explained.

Olivera works with a team of lay missionaries and families in the Neocatechumenal Way. He celebrates Mass each day, studies Mongolian, and teaches Japanese at a company where he tries to “take advantage of the occasion to talk about God, especially through songs.” He also teaches biblical catechesis at the local parish.

Conversions are not frequent, he said, but he has seen people “drawing close to the Church, especially through all the various social works being carried out – assistance to the impoverished elderly, poor and abandoned children.”

“Without a doubt, the love the missionaries are showing is gradually attracting the [locals].”

As an example, the priest recalled a young man who “was searching for God in beauty.” One day, the man entered the Catholic cathedral, where he saw a group of elderly women praying. Moved by the beauty of the scene, the young man decided to be baptized.

“Some people think that this life is crazy, but I desire it for myself,” Olivera told Religión en Libertad. “If it’s getting a bit crazier, better yet, the more we see that it is God who is behind it.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

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Order may censure for disobedience nun who protested rape-accused bishop

January 9, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Kochi, India, Jan 9, 2019 / 02:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The superior general of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation issued last week a letter of warning to Sister Lucy Kalapura, who has been accused of several acts of disobedience, including a protest of the handling of another nun’s accusation that a bishop serially raped her.

Sr. Ann Joseph sent the Jan. 1 letter to Sr. Kalapura asking that she appear before her Jan. 9 to explain the alleged disobediences, or face expulsion from the congregation.

“I have received many allegations against you and have witnessed some of them,” Sr. Ann Joseph wrote, according to The News Minute. The allegations include leading a life “against the principles of religious life” and “against the rule and constitution of the Franciscan Clarist congregation.”

Sr. Kalapura is accused of disobeying a transfer order, publishing poems after having been denied permission to do so, buying a vehicle, withholding her salary from the congregation, and participating in a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur.

Bishop Mulakkal has been accused by a nun of the Missionaries of Jesus of sexually assaulting her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. He was arrested Sept. 21, 2018, but was released on bail. A police investigation is ongoing, and the bishop has been temporarily removed from his responsibilities as Bishop of Jullundur.

Several nuns began protesting in Kochi Sept. 8, 2018 how both police and the Church had responded to the accusation against Bishop Mulakkal.

Sr. Ann Joseph’s letter says that Sr. Kalapura joined the Kochi protest Sept. 20 “without the permission of your superior. You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies … gave interviews to ‘Samayam’ without seeking permission from the provincial superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and the articles, you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable, arising grave scandal.”

The letter also says Sr. Kalapura has failed to obey a transfer order given her in 2015 by her provincial superior, and that she published a book of poems despite being denied permission to do so, and used 50,000 Indian rupees ($700) from the congregation’s account “without proper permission” to do so.

Sr. Kalapura is also accused of buying a car for about $5,670 and learning to drive without permission, and failing to entrust her salary from December 2017.

Sr. Ann Joseph called these acts “a grave infringement of the vow of poverty.”

The superior general added that Sr. Kalapura has been corrected and warned several times by her provincial over her “improper behaviour and violations of religious discipline.”

“Instead of correcting yourself, you are simply denying the allegations against you stating that you have to live your own beliefs, ideologies and conviction. You are repeatedly violating the vows of obedience and poverty. The evangelization and social work you do should be according to the FCC values, principles and rules. The present mode of your life is a grave violation of the profession you have made,” Sr. Ann Joseph wrote.

The News Minute reported that Sr. Kalapura has responded to the letter by claiming it intends to silence her: “The church leadership has been trying to silence whoever questions their actions.”

With regard to her book of poems, she said that “after repeatedly asking for permission, since 2016, they refused to consider my request.”

She also stated: “I have always wholeheartedly offered my salary to the Congregation. However, when I requested the Superior for some money to buy a car to travel for my social works, they denied it. When I was completely denied my benefits, I was determined to take a loan and buy the car. I do not consider it as a violation. In fact, the congregation has violated my rights.”

Sr. Kalapura told The Indian Express: “I don’t think my acts, as mentioned by the Catholic Church in its notice, are wrong. If I’d known they were wrong, I would have never committed them. I did them knowing fully well that they are right. I have no clarification to give regarding that matter. We will see what happens.”

Fr. Augustine Vattoly, another protester against Bishop Mulakkal, has also been warned over his participation.

He prohibited in November for organizing and attending a dharna, or non-violent sit-in, by Bishop Jacob Manathodath, in his capacity as Apostolic Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

“I am told that such actions by a priest will seriously injure the good of the church in public and will cause scandal among the faithful,” Bishop Manathodath wrote, according to Indian magazine The Week.

“It is reported that you celebrate Holy Qurbana (Mass) only rarely and your public expression of priestly prayer life and faith is in question. Daily celebration of Divine office and Qurbana is strongly encouraged by ecclesiastical norms… It is reported that you are not commemorating the name of the Major Archbishop in the Divine Liturgy and in the Divine praises. Its violation is punishable in accordance with the Canon Law,” the letter continued.

Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, has been accused of receiving the nun’s complaint against Bishop Mulakkal in March 2018, and failing to report it to the police.

On Oct. 22, Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, who testified in support of the nun’s claims, was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Foul play has been alleged by members of the priest’s family, but a final autopsy report has not yet been reported.

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Cardinal Tagle at Black Nazarene celebration: Be a devotee, not a fanatic

January 9, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Manila, Philippines, Jan 9, 2019 / 10:42 am (CNA).- Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila told pilgrims at a popular annual procession in the Philippines to take caution against becoming “fanatics,” stressing that true devotion is about how one lives one’s whole life, not a single day.

“A fanatic does not love,” the cardinal told thousands gathered at midnight Mass on Wednesday. “Fanatics hold on to who gives importance to them. But a devotee … is devoted because of love, and that is what Jesus showed us.”

“Devotion is a daily act…. In every kind of love, loyalty, and union, it must be daily,” he said, according to UCA News.

The cardinal gave a homily at a Mass to kick off the annual Black Nazarene procession. Known as the traslacion, the 19-hour procession through the streets of Manila takes place each year on Jan. 9. Millions of pilgrims take part in the 7-kilometer procession; this year’s crowds were expected to top 5 million.

The statue of the Black Nazarene is a kneeling Christ cloaked in a maroon robe and crowned with thorns. The life-sized statue bears a cross.

It was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missionary priests in 1606. The statue is believed to have acquired its black color after being partially burnt when the ship carrying it caught fire on a voyage from Mexico.

Since then it has survived fires that destroyed its host church twice, two earthquakes, floods from numerous typhoons and bombings during World War II. The image is normally enshrined in Manila’s famous Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, popularly known as the Quiapo Church. Many miracles have been reported in connection with veneration of the statue.

The traslacion tradition is deeply beloved in the country, where some 80 percent of the population is Catholic. However, it is also controversial. Barefoot pilgrims eager to touch the Black Nazarene statue shove and climb over one another, resulting each year in injuries and sometimes deaths.

By midmorning Jan. 9, the Philippine Red Cross said they had treated more than 600 people for bruises, fainting, breathing problems, and other conditions. At least three people had been hospitalized, the BBC reported.

In 2012, Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, acknowledged the problem of fanaticism among pilgrims.

“We admit that there were elements or excess of fanaticism that needs to be corrected,” he said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“It’s our task to slowly form and educate the faithful about their devotion and the right way of expressing such devotion that will not harm themselves and others.”

Local priest Fr. Danichi Hui told UCA News he expected this year’s procession to be more orderly than normal, as participants were asked to take a “Devotee’s Pledge” that promised to follow the rules of the event.

Some 7,000 police officers were deployed to secure the procession, and soldiers were on stand-by, local news outlets reported.

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The pilot bishop of the South Pacific

January 7, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Gizo, Solomon Islands, Jan 7, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Known as the “flying bishop” of Solomon Islands, Bishop Luciano Capelli visits Catholics across dozens of islands by piloting a small airplane he also uses to deliver food and medicine.

Capelli, an Italian, was a Salesian missionary in the Philippines for 35 years before coming to the Diocese of Gizo in October 2007. He arrived six months after an earthquake destroyed homes, schools, and churches across the Solomon Islands, a nation of nearly 1,000 islands in Oceania.

“My first task was to encourage the people to rebuild the cathedral, the seven parishes and the 12 schools,” he explained in an interview with the Missioni Don Bosco portal.

The Diocese of Gizo is comprised of some 40 islands with a total population of 136,347  inhabitants, 11 percent of which are Catholics, i.e. about 15,000.

With financial support from the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Capelli was able to take flying lessons and the diocese received an ultralight small airplane.

In the plane, which he himself has piloted since 2011, he visits hospitals, schools and communities, bringing medicine and basic necessities.

Capelli said that isolation is a major challenge for people in his diocese, adding that this is resolved “with a presence.”

“Presence is possible only if there is a means to take you.” Thanks to the airplane, he can visit each mission location between three to five times a year, whereas without it he would have to use a dangerous and more costly boat, he told Askanews.

Capelli has been particularly busy since October 2018, when he decided to send one of his dioceses’ two priests to Italy for advanced studies.

Speaking to Missio Italia, the prelate said that “it’s a sacrifice, and to no little account, depriving us of 50 percent of the clergy! But I trust that the Lord will make new vocations flourish and there will be new ones to come for a an effective and courageous evangelization.”

“We have been working a lot these years with young people and the new generations to train catechists and leaders in the communities. I’m not afraid!”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Hong Kong bishop dies at age 73

January 4, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Hong Kong, China, Jan 4, 2019 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong died in hospital Thursday at the age of 73, after suffering liver failure due to cirrhosis.

He had been admitted to Canossa (Caritas) Hospital Dec. 27, and died the afternoon of Jan. 3.

A board of eight senior members of Hong Kong’s Church administration met Jan. 4 to discuss the diocese’ future leadership, and decided to hold off on choosing an acting bishop as interim leader of the diocese until after Yeung’s funeral, the South China Morning News reports.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong reportedly told the media that the diocese was particularly saddened by Bishop Yeung’s death, because his condition had been described as stable only a few hours before his death, though he had evidently been facing health problems for several years.

The bishop’s funeral Mass will be said Jan. 11.

Bishop Yeung was born Dec. 1, 1945 in Shanghai, and ordained a priest of the Hong Kong diocese in 1978 after studying at a pontifical Roman university.

He then earned a master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University in 1982, and later a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1990.

Since August 2003 he had served as the head of Caritas Hong Kong, and was vicar general from 2009.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong in 2014, and coadjutor bishop in 2016. He succeeded  Cardinal John Tong Hon Aug. 1, 2017.

From the very first homily after his installation, Bishop Yeung talked about serving the poor, the sick, and the needy, because, in his words, “the well-being of society requires the fostering of genuine ecology and unceasing efforts to bring about integral human development,” and said that “the Chinese government has generally encouraged the religious sector to participate more in social and charitable services.”

The Caritas Institute of Higher Education, of which Yeung was chair, held a Requiem Mass for the bishop’s soul Jan. 4. The school is seeking to be recognized as a university and change its name to “St. Francis University,” the organization announced in 2014.

As a special administrative region, Hong Kong has a large degree of autonomy from mainland China, with its own political and economic system. The territory was a British colony from 1842 until 1997.

There are some 581,000 Catholics in Hong Kong, or about eight percent of the population.

Bishop Yeung previously told CNA in an interview that the Catholic Church “mustn’t compete with the communist party for power and authority in this world. The Lord Jesus never told the disciples to compete with the Roman empire…the Church has, however, her role to play. She is called to have a good attitude to dialogue, and at the same time she is called to tell the truth, and to speak out against social injustice, when the latter happens.”

Yeung’s death comes at a time of rapprochement between the Vatican and the Chinese government. Last month, two bishops of the Vatican-approved underground Catholic Church in China agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the communist-supported Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, in the wake of a September 2018 deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

 

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After China deal, two underground bishops step down at Vatican’s request

December 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Beijing, China, Dec 14, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two underground bishops in China have agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, in the wake of a deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

AsiaNews reported Dec. 13 that Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong (Ningde) has agreed to become auxiliary bishop and that Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu will become Bishop of Mindong.

The agreement was made at a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, in the presence of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

At the same meeting, Archbishop Celli announced that Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou will give way to Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang.

Both Bishop Zhan and Bishop Huang had been excommunicated, and were reconciled to the Holy See as part of a September agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.

According to AsiaNews, at the meeting Archbishop Celli gave Bishop Guo a letter from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and from Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, asking that he give up his role as Bishop of Mindong in favor of Bishop Zhan.

“Also according to the report of the priests of Mindong, Msgr. Celli would have told Msgr. Guo that Pope Francis himself asks for this gesture of obedience ‘and of sacrifice for the general situation of the Chinese Church’,” the news outlet reported.

AsiaNews also noted that in previous cases in which a bishop of the CPCA was reconciled to the Holy See, he would become auxiliary bishop to an existing bishop of the underground Church.

Bishop Guo, 59, was detained by the Chinese authorities overnight in March. While he was released after only a short detention, he was ordered not to officiate as a bishop while saying Mass because he is not recognized by the government.

He was taken away because he refused to concelebrate with Bishop Zhan at a Chrism Mass.

Bishop Guo was also detained ahead of Holy Week in 2017.

In January, Asia News reported that a Vatican delegation asked Bishop Guo voluntarily to accept a position as coadjutor bishop under Bishop Zhan. This was also among the conditions Chinese officials had proposed to Bishop Guo during his 2017 detention.

Bishop Guo told the New York Times in February that “we must obey Rome’s decision,” and that “our principle is that the Chinese Catholic Church must have a connection with the Vatican; the connection cannot be severed.”

But he also indicated that while “the Chinese government doesn’t say explicitly that we need to disconnect” from Rome, “in some circumstances it has such an implication.”

In March, at the Chinese Communist Party’s annual meeting, Bishop Zhan told China’s Sing Tao Daily: “There are no obstacles [to a China-Vatican deal] if everyone just thinks of the benefit of the church for the sake of peace.”

Bishop Zhuang, 88, was asked to retire in late 2017 by the Holy See, but he reportedly refused the request at that time. He was consecrated a bishop in 2006, with the approval of the Holy See.

In December 2017 Bishop Zhuang was reportedly escorted to Beijing, where he met separately with leaders of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, officials from China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, and the Vatican delegation.

If Bishop Zhuang resigned, the Holy See delegation reportedly said at that time, he could nominate three priests, one of whom Bishop Huang would choose as his vicar general. “Bishop Zhuang could not help his tears on hearing the demand,” Asia News’ source said, explaining “it was meaningless to appoint a vicar general, who is still a priest that Bishop Huang could remove him anytime.”

 

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