Diocese ordains bishop

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-12-05 06:52

The Guangzhou diocese Tuesday ordained 43-year-old Joseph Gan Junqiu as the bishop to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his predecessor six years ago.

The ceremony was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, with about 1,000 people - mainly Catholics - in attendance.

Bishop John Fang Xingyao from Linyi diocese in Shandong Province presided over the ordination, according to Liu Bainian, vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Gan was elected bishop by 36 of the 39 priests and nuns from the Guangzhou diocese, as well as representatives of church followers last November. The Chinese Catholic Bishops College approved the election earlier this year.

"Gan enjoys respect in the diocese and is easygoing with followers," Liu said.

Gan's appointment came just days after another bishop, Francis Lu Shouwang, was consecrated in Yichang, Hubei Province, on Friday.

Gan and Lu were classmates at a seminary in Wuhan, Hubei, in the 1980s and represent a younger generation of Catholic priests in the country.

Responding to some overseas media reports that the Vatican supported the ordination of the two bishops, Liu told China Daily: "We welcome the Vatican's attitude. It signals progress in our relationship."

Liu said he hopes the Sino-Vatican relationship continues to advance "in a positive direction".

Gan is the fourth bishop ordained this year in China. Joseph Li Shan was ordained bishop of Beijing diocese, and Paul Xiao Zejiang as coadjutor of Guizhou diocese in September.

The bishops college has received applications to fill vacant bishoprics from other dioceses, and Liu said Gan "will probably not be the last bishop ordained this year".

Liu said earlier that the Chinese Catholic society is speeding up the process of selection and ordination of young bishops to serve dioceses which have been without bishops for a long time or to replace older bishops.

The Chinese mainland has 5 million Catholics in 97 dioceses, of which 40 do not have bishops.

In another development, the number of Bibles - with both the old and the new testaments - printed in the country is set to exceed 50 million this month, according to Zhang Liwei, deputy general secretary of the Nanjing-based Christian Amity Foundation which operates the country's sole Bible printing house.

The Chinese Christian Society prints the largest number of Bibles in the world, Rev Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council, said earlier.

The Amity Printing House had printed about 43 million Bibles in Chinese and eight ethnic minority languages to serve the country's 16 million Christians by November.

In addition, under a partnership with the United Bible Societies (UBS), the house has also printed 7 million for readers in more than 30 countries since the 1990s.

The UBS recently decided to renew the contract with the Amity Foundation for another 10 years, Zhang told China Daily.

With a new production line coming into operation next year, Amity will rank as one of the largest Bible printing houses in the world with annual printing volume raised from the current 8 million to 12 million Bibles after 2008.

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