On Sunday 7 May Fr Paul Pei Junmin (37 yrs old) will be consecrated bishop in the Cathedral of Shenyang (Liaoning, north-east China) as coadjutor to Bp. Jin Peixian, with the approval of the Holy See.
Fr Pei Junmin met with Pope Benedict XVI on 3 August 2005 when a group of priests from China came to Rome.
Sources say that Bp. Jin Peixian was one of those who had been pressured and threatened regarding participation in the illicit consecrations last week. However, Jin refused to participate in anything not approved by the Holy See.
ASIA NEWS says that they have "been receiving continuous messages from Chinese priests and bishops, stating their approval for the Vatican stand." Also, Asia News says, "Anthony Liu Bainian, the PA deputy chairman, remains the only person defending the decision to go ahead with the ordinations of Kunming and Wuhu. There has been no official reaction from the government so far."
More from Asia News about the new Coadjutor of Shangyang: "Fr Pei Junmin, 37 years, entered the seminary when he was 16. He was ordained in 1992 and worked for a year in the parish of the cathedral. Then he was sent by his bishop to Philadelphia in the US to study Sacred Scripture. He was among the first group of Chinese priests sent abroad for studies. So far, he has taught Sacred Scripture and he was dean of studies and vice-rector at the major seminary in Shenyang that has 70 vocations. The diocese of Shenyang has 100,000 faithful."
A subtle game of chess is being played by Beijing and the Holy See. I remember years ago when I was quite young playing chess with a fellow from China and pretty much cleaning the board with him. His excuse, or what I thought was an excuse at the time, was that he was more used to playing Chinese chess and was getting confused. "Right!", quoth I, not believing that there was such a thing as Chinese chess. Of course I learned later that indeed there is such a thing as Chinese chess or xiàngqÃ. In fact, we were talking past each other, but I was the one who was ignorant of that fact at the time.
Again, a subtle game of chess is being played out. I cannot help but wonder if the two sides are playing by the same rules (actually, I don’t wonder at all – I am sure they are not) and also whether the Holy See really grasps the reality of playing Chinese chess, or that it is fundamentally different from the diplomatic game they are used to playing.
Naturally, those involved know that China is "different". They know the long and rocky history between the Chinese people and the Church, not to mention dialectical materialism.
Still, if you play xiàngqÃ with Western pieces, or Western chess with Chinese pieces you could get tangled up pretty quickly. And if you have mutliple boards going at the same time….
In the meantime, the Holy See remains tied to Taiwan.