Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed the Holy See's willingness "for a serene and constructive dialogue" with Chinese authorities toward finding a solution for problems affecting the Catholic community in China.
The pope focused on his letter to Catholics in mainland China and his trip to Brazil when he spoke to officials of the Roman Curia on Dec. 21 before the Vatican Christmas recess. He only mentioned in passing other significant events of the year, such as the letter from 138 Muslim scholars to the pope advocating greater Muslim-Christian dialogue.
Later that same day, the official Vatican daily, the Italian-language L'Osservatore Romano, reported the ordination of Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia (Yinchuan) in northwestern China, which it said proceeded with the pope's approval.
Pope Benedict visited Brazil in May for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, held at the Marian Shrine in Aparecida. He highlighted the significance of his first visit to the continent where more than half the world's Catholics now live by mentioning it first in his speech.
Next he recalled his letter, released June 30, "to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China." He said he wished to express his "profound spiritual affection for all the Catholics in China and a cordial esteem for the Chinese people" as well as recall some principles relating to ecclesiology.
"In the light of the 'original plan' which Christ had for his Church, I indicated some guidelines for confronting and resolving, in a spirit of communion and truth, the delicate and complex problems of the life of the Church in China," the pope explained.
"I also indicated the willingness of the Holy See for a serene and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities with the aim of finding solutions to the various problems relating to the Catholic community in China," he added.
Pope Benedict reported that Catholics in China received the letter "with joy and gratitude," but he gave no indication as to how he thought the Chinese authorities had received it.
Significantly, however, he concluded with the hope that, "with the help of God, the letter may produce the desired fruits."
Later that same day, L'Osservatore Romano continued a trend it started this year by reporting on the ordination of an "open Church" bishop in mainland China. It has provided news of several such papal-approved ordinations, providing the names of the ordaining prelate and two co-ordainers who have papal approval.
In reporting the Dec. 21 ordination of Bishop Li in Yinchuan, the capital city of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, it said: "The ordination of Fr. Li, who had been indicated as worthy and suitable for the episcopate, took place with the pontifical approval and was conferred by the 95-year-old bishop of Yinchuan, Monsignor John Baptist Liu Jingshan." It named the co-ordaining prelates as Bishops John Liu Shigong of Tsining (Jining) and Joseph Li Mingshu of Tsingtao (Qingdao).
The daily also reported that "Monsignor Joseph Zong Huaide, bishop of Sanyuan, and some seventy priests also concelebrated" and "about 2,000 faithful, some coming from neighboring dioceses, participated in the religious ceremony with joy at having received the gift of a new bishop."
It said Bishop Li was born in Bameng, Inner Mongolia, on Nov. 15, 1968 and was ordained a priest in August 1996. After completing pastoral theology studies at Sankt Augustin, Germany, in 1998, he taught and served as spiritual director at the national seminary in Beijing, and conducted spiritual retreats in various mainland dioceses. In 2003 he was appointed vicar general of Ningxia.
The Vatican paper reported that the Ningxia region comprises 66,000 square kilometers with 6 million inhabitants, a third of them Muslims belonging to the Hui ethnic group. It said Ningxia (Yinchuan) diocese "has 10,000 Catholics, some 15 churches and 12 priests who come from various dioceses of China."
Vatican Radio reported on the ordination the following day, based on the L'Osservatore article.
This was the fifth open-Church ordination carried out with papal approval in mainland China this year. Official Vatican media have reported all of them, but only after the fact.
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