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Local Catholics pray for unity and a return of their diocese’s ‘glory days’  

Father John Lu Peisen, 45, was ordained as Bishop of Yanzhou today to fill a see that has been vacant for six years.

The ceremony at the St. Joseph Church in Jining city was presided over by Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The co-ordainers were Bishops Joseph Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng and Joseph Li Mingshu of Qingdao.

Bishop Joseph Zhang Xianwang of Jinan and Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun and 41 priests concelebrated the Mass with about 300 people present.

All of these prelates from Shandong province are Vatican-approved and government recognized.

Yanzhou has not had a bishop since the death of Bishop Thomas Zhao Fengwu in 2005.

Bishop Lu said he plans to build a cathedral, promote evangelization work and launch social charity work. He will also continue to serve at the Holy Spirit Minor Seminary in the provincial capital Jinan city.

Born into a Catholic family in 1966, Bishop Lu entered the seminary in 1984. After being ordained in 1989, he served as parish priest and then worked at the minor seminary from 1994 to the present.

He is the secretary-general of the Shandong Provincial Catholic Patriotic Association and the Church Affairs Commission.

Yanzhou diocese currently has a bishop, nine priests, a deacon and around 10,000 Catholics.

A local Catholic said he hoped that the new bishop would lead all priests to unite and concentrate on spreading the Gospel.

“I pray for God’s blessing to our diocese so that it could regain its glory in the old days.”

He referred to the times before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The statistics of 1948 showed Yanzhou had 58,400 Catholics, served by 82 priests and 131 nuns.

Entrusted to the German Divine Word missioners since 1882, the former Lunan (southern Shandong) apostolic vicariate was renamed Yanzhou in 1925 and elevated to a diocese in 1946.

One of its pioneers was Saint Joseph Freinademetz (1852-1908), who was given the Chinese name Fu Rouse. The missioner, who was popularly known as “Mother of the Lunan Mission,” was canonized with the founder of the Divine Word Society Saint Arnold Janssen in 2003.