Joseph Li Jing, 40, was ordained coadjutor bishop of the Ningxia diocese on Friday, becoming the fifth and last bishop to be ordained in China this year.
The 95-year-old Bishop of Ningxia, John Liu Jingshan, presided over the ordination ceremony at his church in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. More than 1,000 people, most of them Catholics, attended the ceremony.
As one-third of the population of the region is ethnic Hui, who are Muslims, the Catholic diocese is relatively small, with about 10,000 followers, 12 priests and 14 parishes, according to Liu Bainian, vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
"Li's ordination will help improve church management in the diocese," Liu said.
Li was elected coadjutor bishop by a unanimous vote from priests, nuns and representatives of churchgoers from the Ningxia diocese in October 2006. The decision was approved last month by the Chinese Catholic Bishops College.
Recognizing that the Catholic Church in Ningxia faces many challenges to its development, a follower from Yinchuan, surnamed Wang, said he hoped, "Li will unite Catholic society to spread the Good News".
According to a rsum provided by the Chinese Catholic society, Li was born into a traditional Catholic family in Bameng diocese and went on to graduate from the National Seminary in 1991. In 1998, he obtained a master's degree in pastoral theology in Germany, two years after he was ordained a priest.
On his return to China, Li worked at the National Seminary, serving as spiritual director, dean of studies and deputy rector. He was transferred to the Ningxia diocese in 2005.
As well as Li, this year has seen the ordination of three bishops and one other coadjutor for dioceses in Beijing, Guizhou, Guangzhou and Yichang.
The five new bishops, who are all in their 40s and trained at theological colleges in the 1980s, have been said to represent the new, young face of the Catholic Church in China.
Liu said earlier that the country's Catholic community is speeding up the process of selection and ordination of young bishops to serve dioceses that have been without bishops for a long time or to replace older bishops.
The mainland has 5 million Catholics in 97 dioceses, of which 40 do not have bishops.
(China Daily December 22, 2007)