VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As the Holy See welcomes the consecration of a bishop in China, it also expresses "disappointment and dismay" at the presence of an excommunicated bishop who has "aggravated his canonical position."
Wednesday's ordination of Bishop Peter Luo Xuegang, which took place with the approval of the Holy See, was met with controversy due to the presence of illegitimately ordained Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin. Lei, who was ordained a bishop last June to the diocese of Leshan, is one of three bishops to be recently ordained in China without sanction from the Church.
Lei's presence at the ordination added fuel to an already existing tension between the Holy See and China. Although Church law states that the power to appoint or confirm the election of a bishop lies solely with the Pope, the Chinese government -- which exercises control over the Catholic Church in China -- considers this to be interference on the part of the Vatican.
In a Wednesday press conference, Vatican spokesperson Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi confirmed the Holy See's approval of Bishop Luo's ordination, while criticizing Lei's presence at the ceremony. "After three recent episcopal ordinations without papal mandate," he told journalists, "the fact of having a new bishop in communion with the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world is certainly positive. It will be appreciated not only by the Chinese bishops and faithful, but also by the universal Church. Instead, the participation of the illegitimate bishop, who -- as is known -- is in the canonical status of an excommunicated person, is not on the same line and gives rise to disagreement and confusion among the faithful, the more so because it appears that he took part as consecrating Bishop and concelebrated the Eucharist. His inveterate disobedience to the rules of the Church unfortunately aggravates his canonical position."
At the same press conference, Father Lombardi stated that Lei should have been excluded altogether from the ceremony, as his presence would ordinarily have canonical consequences for the other attending bishops. He clarified, however, that "in this circumstance it is likely that they were unable to prevent it without great inconvenience. In any case, the Holy See will be able to better assess the question when it has received more extensive and in-depth information."
Lombardi had stated previously that the norms of the Catholic Church would be followed in the ordination if the faithful were informed that the candidate had the approval of the Holy See, and that no "illegitimate bishop participates in the liturgical ceremony."