The Holy See has asked Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou in southern Guangdong province to retire in order to give way to an excommunicated bishop while another Vatican-appointed bishop was asked to downgrade himself as the assistant of an illicit bishop.

This is the second time in three months that the Holy See made the resignation demand on Bishop Zhuang, who was secretly ordained in 2006 with Vatican approval. However, he is only recognized as priest by the Chinese government, which is in full support of the excommunicated Bishop Huang Bingzhang, a long-time member in the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament.

A letter dated 26 October demanded the 88-year-old bishop to resign to give way to the excommunicated bishop, whom the Holy See is going to recognize. “Bishop Zhuang at that time refused to obey and rather ‘carry His Cross’ for being disobedient,” a church source in Guangdong who asked not to be named told Asia News.

In the latest incident, Bishop Zhuang was escorted to Beijing 18-22 December from his southern diocese to meet some senior officials from the central government and a delegation from the Vatican, according to the church source.

Since China and the Vatican resumed official contact in 2014, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, a veteran in China Church affairs, is known to be responsible for the negotiations and has been in China several times for this purpose. It is believed the prelate whom Bishop Zhuang met is Archbishop Celli.

Archbishop Celli explained the aim of their travel to China was to do something in order to reach understanding with the Chinese government, and that is to let Bishop Huang to become the legitimate bishop of the diocese, the source said.

The Holy See delegation demanded Bishop Zhuang to retire just as what was in the letter dated Oct 26 but with one additional term seemingly to console the elderly bishop, and that is, he could nominate three priests for Bishop Huang to pick one as his vicar general, the source continued.

“Bishop Zhuang could not help his tears on hearing the demand,” the source said, adding that “it was meaningless to appoint a vicar general, who is still a priest that Bishop Huang could remove him anytime.”

Some bishops in southern China opposed the idea of hastily recognizing Bishop Huang, who was officially excommunicated by the Holy See in 2011 when he accepted illicit episcopal ordination without papal mandate. One of the bishops who asked not to be named told Asia News that the Vatican has asked for their opinions. “I did not know the outcome, but this is a bad solution,” he said.

While Bishop Zhuang was summoned to freezing Beijing, the Vatican delegation reportedly went southward to eastern Fujian province to meet with Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, one of the seven illicit bishops awaiting Vatican recognition.

Local sources said Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin, the ordinary bishop of Mindong belonging to the underground community, was asked to downgrade himself as assistant of Bishop Zhan, with one saying that he has to downgrade to become a coadjutor bishop.

One of the sources said, signing a document to accept “voluntary” downgrading himself as the coadjutor bishop was also one of the conditions the government officials put forward to Bishop Guo in order to recognize him when he was under one-month detention before the Holy Week in 2017.

Full story at Asia News.