JIANGMEN, CHINA – Father Paul Liang Jiansen, 46, was recently ordained Bishop of Jiangmen, making him the first bishop to be consecrated in China this year.

He is also the first bishop ordained with both papal approval and government recognition after China-Vatican relations cooled in late 2010. This was after Beijing ordained a bishop illicitly and convened the National Congress of Catholic Representatives.

The March 30 ceremony was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Jiangmen city, Guangdong.

Mr Kwun Ping-hung, an expert on the Church in China, said this “dual-approved” ordination conveys a positive message, but “in light of current China-Vatican relations, we should not over-interpret it as a sign of warming ties”.

Both sides still hold different views over the selection and appointment of bishops, which may be seen in the near future said Mr Kwun, who is based in Hong Kong.

The new bishop said he plans to train lay leaders to help priests and nuns in catechesis and evangelisation as there is a shortage of religious vocations in the diocese.

Bishop Liang said his coat of arms bears the images of St Francis Xavier and Fr Matteo Ricci, and expressed his desire to model himself on them.
The two Jesuit missioners inspire him to work harder to spread the Gospel as many people have not heard about Jesus, he said.

Jiangmen diocese holds a special place in China Church history.

St Francis Xavier arrived on Shangchuan Island in 1552, but died months later while waiting to enter the mainland. His tomb in Jiangmen is a pilgrimage site.

Fr Ricci spent six years in Zhaoqing in the northern part of today’s Jiangmen diocese, where he built a church and prepared for his mission to mainland China.

Bishop Liang invited his seminary classmates – Bishops Joseph Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou, Joseph Liao Hongqing of Meixian (Meizhou) and Paul Su Yongda of Zhanjiang, all from Guangdong – to officiate at his ordination.

The bishops of Nanchang, Nanning and Haimen and about 40 priests concelebrated the Mass. Priests and laypeople from Hong Kong and Macau also attended.

The cathedral accommodated 400 people, while 1,000 sat in the courtyard. Hundreds without tickets watched the ceremony on TV screens outside the compound.  – UCANEWS.COM