Chinese Underground Bishop Skips Retirement Mass to Protest Sino-Vatican Arrangement

Aerial view of Shanghai cityscape, China

01/25/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – After the Vatican signed a provisional deal with China on the appointment of bishops last September, Bishop Zhuang Jianjian in Shantou was asked by a Vatican delegation to step down for formerly excommunicated Bishop Huang Bingzhang who was recently recognized by the Vatican.

Despite previous attempts by the Holy See and the Chinese government to convince him to accept such arrangement, Bishop Zhuang has never agreed to retire. As early as 2017, Archbishop Carlo Maria Celli had already asked Bishop Zhuang to step aside for Bishop Huang, yet the 88-year-old bishop did not accept and had sent a letter to Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, prompting the latter to fly to Rome to express his concerns to Pope Francis warning him against ‘selling out’ the Shantou underground Church.

Their opposition did not change anything. Last month, Archbishop Celli again went to China with a Vatican delegation to finalize details of the arrangement. They officially announced the handover for both Shantou and Mindong bishops from underground prelates to reconciled bishops.

On January 22, Bishop Zhuang attended his retirement ceremony and gave remarks, before returning to his own room. He chose to be absent from the retirement Mass as a subtle way to show his protest, although the explanation given for his absence was “the bishop did not feel well.”

A Catholic told UCA News that the government officials and the bishops of Guangdong held a meeting before the Mass to declare that Bishop Zhuang was recognized as a bishop but he was retired “since this is the decision of Rome.”