China 'Crosses Line' With Bishop

China's state-controlled Catholic Church ordains a bishop without Vatican approval.

2011.07.15
Youngsters stand in front of a Catholic cathedral in Beijing, Nov. 21, 2010.
AFP

Relations between Beijing and the Vatican will likely be further strained by the ordination of a third bishop without the Pope's approval, overseas Catholics said this week.

China announced on Thursday that it had ordained a third bishopJoseph Huang Bingzhang from the southern city of Shantouunder the aegis of its state-sanctioned Catholic Church, which has rocky relations with the Pope.

"Relations right now are terrible," said Joseph Kung, spokesman for the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which follows China's "underground" Catholics, who worship without state approval and maintain loyalty to the Vatican.

"It's not that the Vatican doesn't want relations with [Beijing], it's that Beijing does things which it cannot accept."

"According to the tenets of the Catholic faith, no bishop can be ordained without the approval of the Pope," Kung said. "Catholics must obey the Pope."

"What right does [Beijing] have to do such things?"

Forced to attend

Reuters quotes sources close to the bishops as saying that Huang was ordained in a ceremony attended by around 1,000 people, including eight bishops who have been approved by the Pope.

The bishops had only taken part under extreme pressure from the authorities, and had attended the event with a police escort, the agency said.

Some fear that Huang could be excommunicated for his role in the ceremony, as the Vatican had told him ahead of time that it was not approved.

The Vatican excommunicated Paul Lei Shiyin, who was named as bishop of the city of Leshan on June 29 without papal authorization, saying his ordination was an illegitimate act that damaged the unity of the Church.

An ethnic Chinese Catholic priest in Canada who declined to be named said Beijing was not likely to bow to the authority of the Vatican in its management of Chinese Catholics, however.

"China is never going to allow any foreigner to have a say in its national affairs, because that would be an infringement of its sovereignty," the priest said.

"However, the Vatican says it has no intention of intervening in Chinese politics. It is only concerned with matters of faith."

No room for maneuver

He said there is scant room for maneuver between the two positions.

"It will be very hard to resolve this issue," he said. "They have already crossed the line ... The Vatican can't go any further."

Yang Yu, spokesman for the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said recently that more than 40 of the country's 97 dioceses are without a bishop.

Church leaders agreed at a recent meeting that the church would strive to select and ordain bishops at those dioceses without delay, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China's officially sanctioned Catholic Church has between five and six million members, while an underground church loyal to Rome has as many as 10 million followers.

Reported by Yang Jiadai for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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