Bishop Joseph Chen Gong'ao

New Chinese bishop hopes to strengthen formation, evangelize

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 19, 2012

NANCHONG, China - Bishop Joseph Chen Gong'ao was ordained April 19 as the bishop of Nanchong and made a pledge to strengthen formation and promote new evangelization.

The 47-year-old prelate, the first Chinese bishop to be ordained this year, was approved by Pope Benedict XVI and is recognized by the Chinese government, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

He told UCA News that his priority is to enhance the quality of priests, seminarians and nuns so that "the diocese's evangelistic work would be developed in a more systematic manner."

Bishop Chen added that he would organize more training for laypeople, especially catechists.

Citing the coming 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Chen said he hoped to open new avenues for evangelization by bringing priests and lay catechists into full play to spread Catholic teachings integrated with Nanchong's local culture.

He said he also hopes to build a new cathedral to replace the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, which was damaged in a 2008 earthquake and which he said was too small to accommodate all Catholics for large-scale activities.

About 800 people packed Sacred Heart to witness the ordination, while a few hundred others watched a live broadcast at a pilgrimage site about three miles away because of insufficient space in the cathedral.

Five Vatican-approved bishops participated in the ordination, and nearly 90 priests attended.

Excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, wearing bishop's garb, joined the Vatican-approved bishops in the laying of hands during the liturgy.

Born in 1964, Bishop Chen graduated from Sichuan Catholic Seminary in 1988 and was ordained a priest two years later. He has presided over diocesan affairs since 2005 and became the seminary's rector in 2008.

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