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12/20/2018 China (International Christian Concern) – A second bishop from China’s underground Catholic church is stepping aside as the government replaces him with an excommunicated clergyman, state-run media Global Times reported.

A Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli recently visited China to oversee the placement of excommunicated bishops into dioceses that had been run by underground bishops.

Amid a thaw in relations between Beijing and the Holy See, Zhuang Jianjian, bishop of the Shantou diocese in southern China will retire and be replaced by Huang Bingzhang, deputy chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This happened after Bishop Guo Xijin of the underground church community of Mindong, in Fujian province, promised to take up a post as an auxiliary bishop while government-backed Bishop Zhan will become the diocesan bishop.

Speaking about the Vatican-issued mandate, incoming Bishop Huang told the Global Times, “the mission now is to unite Catholics in the diocese and reduce divergence so as to achieve the common goal of better serving church members.”

However, according to Catholic news outlet UCA News, when contacted by phone, Bishop Zhuang stated without elaboration: “I have not retired.”

He said he previously visited Beijing on December 17 and Archbishop Celli asked him to retire, but he had not replied.

An anonymous source from Shantou told UCA News that the Chinese government had asked the underground bishops to be “obedient” in relation to official directives.

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