JIANGMEN, China, MARCH 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Some 1,500 faithful were on hand in Jiangmen today for the first episcopal ordination in China since the illicit episcopal ordination of Father Joseph Guo Jincai as bishop of Chengde last November.
Father Paul Liang Jiansen, 46, was ordained bishop of Jiangmen today with both papal approval and government recognition, reports the Union of Catholic Asian News. The episcopal ordination was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Jiangmen, which is located in the southern Guangdong province.
China-Vatican relations cooled late last year after the illicit episcopal ordination in November, and then forced participation in the 8th Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives in December.
The assembly was convened to elect leaders for two organizations that direct China’s national Catholic church, both without papal approval. One is the assembly of Chinese bishops; the other is the Patriotic Association, the group which approves all religious practice in the country.
Catholics who do not abide by the Patriotic Association have formed the “underground” or “clandestine” Church, faithful to the Bishop of Rome.
More than 40 bishops and priests concelebrated at the ordination Mass, and the cathedral and courtyard were filled to capacity, reported UCANews. Hundreds of faithful also watched the ordination on television screens set up outside of the Church.
Bishop Liang told AsiaNews.it that felt “relieved” that the ordination took place without incident. All the clergy who participated in the ceremony are in good standing with the Holy See.
“My cross is heavy,” he said, “but I trust in the Lord to protect and help me live out this episcopal ministry.”
The bishop said his priorities include the spiritual formation of the priests and nuns, as well as the laity. He added that “there will be five or six new baptisms at Easter.”
The Diocese of Jiangmen had been vacant since 2007, when Bishop Pietro Paolo Li Panshi died at the age of 95.
The diocese has about 20,000 Catholics, primarily in the cities of Foshan, Jiangmen and Zhongshan, and in 20 rural counties. Its seven priests and some 20 religious sisters have to speak three languages — Cantonese, Hacca and Mandarin — to carry out their pastoral work.
The diocese is the home of the shrine in Shangchuan that commemorates the death of St. Francis Xavier in 1552. Bishop Liang revealed that his coat of arms bears the image of St. Francis Xavier, as well as that of Father Matteo Ricci.
Liang Jiansen was born in 1964, and was baptized in 1985. He was ordained a priest in 1991 and has served Jiangmen since 1995. He was name vicar gerenal of the diocese by his predecessor, Bishop Li, and was elected bishop of Jiangmen in November 2009.