Viewing cable 06HONGKONG2050

06HONGKONG20502006-05-17 10:36:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Hong Kong
DE RUEHHK #2050/01 1371036
P 171036Z MAY 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 002050 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2031 
HONG KONG 00002050  001.2 OF 002 
Classified By: E/P Chief Simon Schuchat. Reasons: 1.4(b,d). 
¶1. (C) Summary:  On May 14, Bishop Zhan Silu celebrated Mass 
to mark his formal installation as Bishop of the Mindong 
Diocese in the PRC,s Fujian Province.  According to 
Monsignor Eugene Nugent, the papal representative in Hong 
Kong, Zhan was illicitly ordained a bishop in 2000 but was 
never formally installed as head of the diocese and has never 
hosted a full Mass as bishop.  The Holy See has been 
appreciative of Zhan's low profile in the Diocese in recent 
years, and had considered a review of his case which might 
have led to his legitimization as a Vatican-approved bishop. 
Now, however, this review was in "cold storage."  As Zhan's 
appointment lacked papal approval, his installation will 
likely exacerbate the row between the Vatican and Beijing 
over recent ordinations.  Nugent opined that there has been a 
change in Beijing,s policy towards the Holy See, apparently 
with the tacit support of top leaders, and the recent 
ordinations might constitute retaliation for the March 
elevation of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken 
individual whom Beijing simply did not like.  End Summary. 
Beijing Installs Bishop Lacking Vatican Approval 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
¶2. (C) On May 14, Bishop Zhan Silu celebrated Mass with 500 
Catholics and officials in a Ningde church to mark his formal 
installation as Bishop of the Mindong Diocese in Fujian 
Province.  As Zhan's appointment lacked papal approval, his 
installation is likely to exacerbate the row between the 
Vatican and Beijing over the recent consecration of bishops. 
Unlike the newly ordained Bishops Ma Yinglin and Liu Xinhong, 
however, Zhan (and four other PRC priests) already had been 
appointed bishop on January 6, 2000, against the Holy See's 
wishes (reftel).  Nevertheless, Zhan was never formally 
installed as head of the Mindong diocese and had never hosted 
a full Mass as bishop.  He told the "Union of Catholic Asian 
News (UCAN)," on May 15 that he decided to be installed "due 
to the requests of laypeople and advice of government 
officials."  Moreover, said Zhan, the Diocese needed a new 
leader after the death of open (or Government-approved) 
Church Bishop Peter Zhang Shizhi last fall.  Zhan 
acknowledged that he did not have the Pope's approval, but 
said that he hoped the Holy See, the underground Catholic 
community and his priests would accept him as bishop. 
¶3. (C) Monsignor Eugene Nugent, the papal representative in 
Hong Kong, told us May 15 that the installment of Bishop Zhan 
in the Mindong Diocese was related to the deaths last August 
of Bishop Zhang, head of the open Catholic community, and 
Bishop Xie Shiguan, a revered underground bishop, who died 
within weeks of each other.  While Coadjutor Bishop Vincent 
Huang Shoucheng now heads the underground community, there 
was a vacancy in the open church that Zhan now has filled. 
With 40,000 members, the underground Catholic community in 
the Mindong Diocese is significantly larger than the 
government-recognized Catholic community of 10,000 people. 
¶4. (C) After Zhan's ordination in 2000, Nugent said they had 
exchanged letters.  The Holy See had been appreciative of 
Zhan's low-profile in the Mindong Diocese over the past 
several years and until last Sunday, Zhan had refrained from 
taking on his full duties as bishop and had never hosted a 
Mass as bishop.  There had even been a review of Zhan's case 
that might have led to his legitimization as a 
Vatican-approved bishop, but this latest development has put 
the review in "cold storage."  Nugent confirmed that Zhan, 
along with Ma Yinglin and Liu Xinhong, now were considered 
excommunicated.  Nugent said he was still reviewing the cases 
of the two ordaining bishops to determine if there were any 
extenuating circumstances (i.e. pressure from the Government) 
to explain their participation in the illicit ordinations. 
Possible Retaliation for Zen's Elevation 
¶5. (C) Without a representative office in Beijing, it was 
difficult for the Vatican to understand the PRC's motives in 
pushing forward the recent ordinations of bishops, said 
Nugent, although he had heard that the PRC Foreign Ministry 
was unhappy over the current crisis.  Nugent opined that the 
illicit ordinations signaled a change in policy towards the 
Holy See which was either instigated or strongly supported by 
Liu Bainian, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic 
Association (CCPA), and which appeared to enjoy the tacit 
HONG KONG 00002050  002.2 OF 002 
support of top leaders in Beijing.  The ordinations might 
also be an attempt to install as many "patriotic" bishops as 
possible before concrete steps towards normalization of 
Vatican-PRC relations took place.  Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph 
Zen's recent elevation -- an outspoken person whom Beijing 
simply did not like ) also was a likely factor, said Nugent. 
¶6. (C) The Vatican's initial reaction to the unauthorized 
bishop ordinations was to err on the side of caution and to 
refrain from hasty statements condemning the PRC, said 
Nugent.  However, Zen felt otherwise and had urged the 
Vatican to make a strong statement condemning the ordinations 
as soon as possible -- a position which Nugent shared.  Next 
week, Zen will travel to Rome and brief the Pope on the 
latest developments.  The Cardinal's role in the 
Vatican-Beijing relationship is likely to be clarified 
through this visit, opined Nugent. 
¶7. (C) When asked about Zen's statement that normalization of 
relations might occur before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, 
Nugent responded that this was perhaps just wishful thinking 
on the part of Cardinal Zen and that he personally did not 
believe this was a realistic target date.  Although Zen had 
become optimistic about the opportunity to normalize 
relations after his elevation to cardinal, Beijing had not 
responded to Zen's statements. 
More Illicit Ordinations Expected 
¶8. (C) Recent claims by the PRC Religious Affairs Bureau 
(RAB) that appointments were urgently needed for the 40 
diocese currently without bishops were "misleading," said 
Nugent.  This number did not take into account the 40-50 
underground bishops that were in communion with the Holy See, 
but not recognized by the PRC Government.  (Note: Over the 
past few decades, the PRC Government, without Vatican 
approval, amalgamated several diocese within China to mirror 
official administrative districts.  Therefore, the Holy See 
currently recognizes a greater number of diocese than the 
Chinese Government.  End Note.)  In response to complaints by 
the PRC side that the Vatican was too slow to approve their 
candidates, Nugent said that the same could be said about the 
Chinese Government; the Vatican has provided the Chinese side 
with 8-10 bishop candidates whom PRC officials have not yet 
approved.  Beijing has manufactured a sense of urgency for 
the issue, and Nugent expected to see more ordinations of 
bishops without papal approval in coming months. 
¶9. (C) During a May 17 interview with Xinhua News Agency, Liu 
Bainian said China would continue to appoint more bishops. 
According to Liu, before there could be an improvement in 
Vatican-Holy See relations, "the Chinese Church has to select 
and ordain its bishops independently" and they must be "pious 
and patriotic."  "This is the arrangement of Christ," said 
Liu.  Citing an urgent need to appoint bishops in diocese 
where no bishop presided, Liu said, "Can we wait 50 years if 
China and the Vatican negotiate that long?...We will be 
sinful before Christ if we don't spread the Gospel." 
Injecting nationalism into the current discussion on the 
right to appoint bishops, Liu added, "China will never allow 
the Chinese Church to revert to the one similar to that in 
the era of semi-colonial and semi-feudal society or subject 
to any foreign domination." 
Biographic Information for Zhan Silu 
¶10. (C) Zhan was born in 1961 and was ordained a priest of 
Mindong Diocese in 1989.  From 1995-1997, Zhan studied in 
Hong Kong at the Holy Spirit Study Center, where he knew 
Cardinal Zen, said Nugent.  According to UCAN, Zhan is a Vice 
Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and a 
member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative