Saturday, July 22, 2023

An ethnic Chinese becomes Réunion’s new bishop

Pascal Chane-Teng nommé évêque de la Réunion (biographie) - Réunionnais du  Monde

The new bishop of Réunion, Pascal Chane-Teng, is of Chinese origin, whose ancestors hail from Guangdong in mainland China. His diocese is located on the homonymous island, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.

Hitherto the diocese’s vicar general, he was appointed by Pope Francis to replace Bishop Gilbert Aubry, 81, who led the local Church for the past 47 years.

Bishop Pascal Chane-Teng was born on 4 July 1971 in the city of Saint-Pierre, Réunion’s third-largest city, and is a member of the diocesan clergy. His Chinese name is Zeng Qìng hui (曾慶輝), Gallicised as Chane-Teng.

His family are ethnic Hakka Chinese who moved to the Indian Ocean island at the end of the 19th century and settled in La Réunion in 1923. Originally from Meizhou Prefecture in eastern Guangdong, the family maintains regular contacts with their home village.

An estimate 25,000 Réunionese are ethnic Chinese (called Sinwa in Réunionese creole), descendants of workers, especially from Guangdong and Fujian, who moved to the island in search of wealth and fortune.

The first arrived in the 1840s, even before France abolished slavery (1848), to work on sugar cane plantations. More migrants arrived in several waves well into the 20th century.

The future prelate entered the seminary after graduating in law and art history in Clermont-Ferrant, and was ordained into the priesthood in 2004, pursuing his studies in Rome at the Gregorian and Urbaniana universities, before taking up pastoral work back home.

He is a member of the Theological and Pastoral Commission of the Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI),[i] which includes the Comoros, Mauritius, Réunion, Mayotte and Seychelles.

In Réunion, he also serves as Mass coordinator for the Chinese New Year and the dearly departed of Chinese origin. He also teaches Chinese folk religion at the university level.

In a message addressed to the diocese upon hearing about his appointment, Bishop Pascal Chane-Teng gave thanks to “the Lord for all the people He has put on my path in order to build me up as a person and as a Christian.”

Entrusting himself to the intercession of the diocese in his new ministry, he also called on the faithful  to “continue to pray for vocations, for the weak, the sick, for our island and our country.”