Sanyuan, Vietnam - Mgr Joseph Han Yingjin was ordained today, the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, as the new bishop of Sanyuan (Shaanxi). His ordination was approved by the Holy See and took place in the church of the Sacred Heart in Yuanmenxiang. The Bishop, speaking to AsiaNews, said he wants to strengthen evangelization, faith formation and social services, as well as strengthen the bonds of communion among priests.
Bishop Han was the fourth Vatican approved bishop to be ordained in China since last April, after those of Hohhot, Haimen and Xiamen. Unlike what happened in the past, this time all the bishop concelebrants were in communion with the Holy See.
The ordaining bishop was Mgr Joseph Zong Huaide, emeritus of Sanyuan, 88. Also present were Mgr. Anthony Dang Mingyan of Xian, Mgr. Louis Yu Runchen of Hanzhong (co-ordaining bishops), Mgr. Tong Changping of Weinan, Mgr. Li Jing of Yinchuan (Ningxia), Mgr. Han Jide of Pingliang (Gansu). The ceremony also was attended by 85 priests. More than 500 faithful, together with government representatives and guests were able to enter the church and take part in the ceremony, but at least 500faithful had to participate outside the church.
Newly ordained bishop Han, is almost 52, was born into a Catholic family in Sanyuan in 1958. In the '80s he studied at the seminary and was ordained priest on November 8, 1992 by the same Mgr. Zong, who ordained him today. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said he hopes to improve personal relationships and fellowship with his priests and to care for elderly priests. He also highlighted the importance of enhanced formation for priests and laity, through biblical studies. "The study of the Bible - he said - will enable us to operate according to the will of God."
Among the priorities the bishop also stressed the value of social services, although the diocese lacks resources and experience in this field.
Once there was a strong component of the underground Church in the Diocese of Sanyuan. In November 1989, at the church of Zhangerce (Gaoling county) a meeting of underground bishops was held which later became known because the majority of bishops who took part in it were later arrested. Bishop Han explained that this event happened 21 years ago and today its effects are not as keenly felt. The problem of division between the official and underground community - he said - is not obvious now.
The Diocese of Sanyuan has 35 priests, 100 nuns and about 40,000 Catholics. The ordination of Mgr. Han resolves the problem of succession to Mgr. Zong, which began five years ago.
Sanyuan is one of the oldest areas of evangelization in Shaanxi, where Christianity first arrived in the 17th century. Sanyuan was founded as a city around 446 A.D. and still today boasts many ancient monuments.