Holy See Disturbed by Illicit Ordination in China

Represents Grave Violation of Religious Freedom

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman is affirming that the Holy See is «disturbed» by reports of a proposed illicit episcopal ordination in China.

In a statement publicized today, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, commented on reports of bishops in China being forced to participate in an ordination in Chendge.

«The Holy See is disturbed by reports from Mainland China alleging that a number of bishops in communion with the Pope are being forced by government officials to attend an illicit episcopal ordination in Chengde, northeastern Hebei, said to be scheduled around Nov. 20,» the priest stated.

He continued, «If these reports are true, then the Holy See would consider such actions as grave violations of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.»

«It would also consider such an ordination as illicit and damaging to the constructive relations that have been developing in recent times between the People’s Republic of China and the Holy See,» Father Lombardi asserted.

He confirmed that Father Joseph Guo Jincai «has not received the approval of the Holy Father to be ordained as a bishop of the Catholic Church.»

Father Jincai is the vice secretary-general of the Catholic Patriotic Association. The Chinese government currently permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association.

This explains the difference between the «national» or «official» Church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church.

Positive relations

The spokesman reported that «the Holy See, keen to develop positive relations with China, has contacted the Chinese authorities on this whole matter and has made its own position clear.»

UCANews reported today that the bishops designated to participate in the ordination include Bishop Peter Fang Jingping of Tangshan, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Hengshui, and Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding.

Bishop Jingping is slated to be the presiding celebrant.

UCANews reported that Bishop Pei is «unable to contact other bishops,» and will be escorted to Chengde by religious officials.

It added that the other prelates are believed to be in Beijing at present, although the faithful of their communities have been unable to contact them.

Created by the Chinese authorities in 1955, Chengde is not recognized as a diocese by the Vatican. It has some six priests, 15 religious, 16 parishes and 20,000 lay faithful.

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