Formation Is Top Priority for New Bishop in China

Prelate, 39, Studied in Belgium

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HONG KONG, JAN. 19, 2004 ( A newly ordained bishop in China sees formation of seminarians, priests, nuns and lay people as a top priority for his diocese.

Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao was ordained Jan. 6 as coadjutor of Hengshui Diocese in Hebei province. As coadjutor, he would succeed on the death or retirement of the current bishop.

Bishop Feng was appointed by John Paul II and was approved by the government-recognized Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China. The government accepted the choice after two years of discussions.

Bishop Feng’s main task is to upgrade education standards of both the minor seminary and the women’s religious congregation in the diocese. There are now 90 minor seminarians and 60 nuns, he said. The continuing formation of 26 young priests and of lay people is also a top priority, he added.

The newly ordained bishop, age 39, obtained a master’s degree in canon law in 1990 at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

He is the first bishop ordained in China since 1980 to have studied abroad, though another has studied outside the mainland.

Bishop Feng has been teaching English and philosophy at Hebei Catholic Seminary in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, about 270 kilometers southwest of Beijing, as well as at the Hengshui Diocese’s minor seminary.

There are now 28 priests, 60 nuns and 26,000 Catholics in the diocese. According to Bishop Feng, the diocese is led by Bishop Chen Xilu of Hengshui. The 75-year-old prelate has been in coma for two years because of a brain hemorrhage.

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