ROME — The Vatican has accepted the nomination of Communist Party loyalist Father Francis Cui Qingqi as the new bishop of Wuhan, who will be ordained on September 8.
AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, reported Sunday that Father Cui was the only candidate put forward by Church bodies loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to occupy the post in Wuhan.
“Obviously, the Vatican was unable to refuse the appointment, even if the concrete possibilities of assessing its suitability were evidently limited,” AsiaNews added. Cui’s will be the fourth episcopal ordination since the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement on the naming of bishops.
Father Cui has a history of faithfully representing the interests of the CCP against clergy loyal to Rome.
In 2012, local clergy in Wuhan sought to decide on the reassignment of priests to parishes in the diocese without the approval of CCP authorities. They held a meeting for this purpose and drafted a list of assignments and transfers between parishes, under the leadership of Father Joseph Shen Guo’an, who had been temporarily in charge of the Wuhan diocese in the absence of a bishop.
Father Shen announced the reassignment of the priests during a solemn Mass in the diocese, which met with applause from the congregation, but government officials intervened soon afterward, interrogating the priests and warning against any changes.
In response, the authorities “recalled from Beijing another priest from the diocese, Father Cui Qingqi,” La Stampa reported at the time, who “was seen to be with government officials before arriving at the diocese.”
When Father Shen and others “resolutely implemented the transfer decision” against the wishes of the government, the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau dismissed Father Shen from his duties as the head of the diocese, along with several other priests.
In their place, the provincial authorities established a five-member management committee led by Father Cui Qingqi, “who is said to be close to the government,” Vatican Radio reported.
The installation of Father Cui was the government’s way of remedying what Vatican Radio described as “an escalating standoff between authorities and the Church in the province.”
At the launch of the new team, no priests or nuns except Fr. Cui were allowed to speak, the report stated, and the government’s reshuffle “effectively overrules church leaders in Wuhan who want to decide on the allocation of priests to parishes themselves.”
The 2012 elevation of CCP-friendly Father Cui was “the latest example of interference by authorities in Wuhan” in the internal life of the Church, Vatican Radio noted.
Over the past year and a half, Wuhan has drawn international attention as the origin of the China coronavirus pandemic.
AsiaNews noted that the consecration of the bishop of Wuhan “had long been hoped for, as proof and symbol of the autonomy of the official Church recognised and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”