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Chinese Seminarians Resist Illicit Bishops

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Protestors denied ordination but say they are at peace supporting Rome.

Seminarians in the People’s Republic of China have boycotted their graduation ceremony over a dispute regarding the validity of bishops.

Beijing’s National Seminary  tried to mediate with the students but was forced to cancel the ceremony, which had been scheduled for the end of June. The students refused to assist at Mass presided over by illegitimate bishops involved in illicit ordinations of the last few years. 

Originally, the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin was slated to preside at the liturgy.  He was rector of the seminary in 2010 and ordained bishop of Kunming in 2006 without papal approval. Later, Ma was excommunicated by the Holy See. Following heated protests, the seminary’s directors proposed Bishop John Fang Xingyao, a member of the seminary’s board of directors and president of the Patriotic Association (defined by Benedict XVI as "incompatible" with the Catholic faith in his Letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007). The bishop of the diocese of Linyi was ordained a bishop in 1997 with the approval of the Holy See, but over time drew closer to the government. This proposal was rejected by the seminarians, who pointed out that Bishop Fang has participated in several illicit episcopal ordinations.

A seminary source told ucanews.com that since Bishop Ma became rector, the seminary had only presented graduation certificates, but had not celebrated Mass. The news of the Mass apparently caught students by surprise; they then refused to assist at Mass with the illicitly ordained bishop.

"Bishop Ma also has no intention to celebrate a Mass. It was the vice-rector who wants to please his superior," the source said.

The two bishops did not attend the June 29 graduation ceremonies and graduates were not conferred with certificates before they left for their respective dioceses, according to the seminary source. Rumors then began to spread that an advanced course for priests and nuns will be suspended when the new school year begins in September.

It is not the first time that Beijing’s seminarians have raised their voices against the imposition of the Patriotic Association. On Jan. 6, 2000, the entire student body of the National Seminary—more than 130 students at the timerefused to participate in the illicit ordination of 12 (later reduced to five) illegitimate bishops. The ceremony was to take place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (the Nantang) in Beijing to "counter" the one celebrated in the Vatican by Pope John Paul II, but was a failure due to scarce presence of the faithful and student’s boycott.

The backlash was swift: All students were sent home without a diploma and without the possibility of returning to the seminary. An open letter signed by the students explained their actions: "We do not want to go against the Pope, although this will mean no longer becoming priests. At least we will be pure soul, in communion with the universal Church and united in love of Christ."

Objections to the Patriotic Association and the government manipulations of the Catholic Church are becoming more frequent. Even the seminarians of Shanghai were opposed to the presence of illicit bishops at the episcopal ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Ma Daqin, the heroic prelate who immediately after his ordination, announced his resignation from the PA. This is why he is detained at the Marian shrine of Sheshan without being able to exercise his ministry. For their opposition, the seminarians were expelled from the seminary (which was later closed)

Reprinted courtesy of Asia News.

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