Holy See Issues Statement on Episcopal Ordinations in China

State-Sanctioned Bishop Excommunicated for Illicit Ordination

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In a communique released this morning, the Holy See has officially confirmed the excommunication of Reverend Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained bishop of Harbin by China’s state-sanctioned Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA).

The ordination, which occurred without papal mandate, was considered illicit and therefore subject to the sanctions set forth on canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. The specific canon mentioned states that “both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”

The illicit ordination complicates growing tensions between the Holy See and Beijing. 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. 

The statement also said that Reverend Yue Fusheng was informed a while ago that his episcopal candidacy was not approved and was asked on several occasions to not accept the ordination without papal mandate. 

The Holy See stated that bishops who attended the illicit ordination must give an account of their participation in the ceremony or face excommunication as well. The communique also expressed its appreciation “to those priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful who prayed and fasted for a change of heart in the Reverend Yue Fusheng, for the holiness of the Bishops and for the unity of the Church in China, particularly in the Apostolic Administration of Harbin.”

Despite the disappointment with the ordination, the Holy See was encouraged by the ordination of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. The statement, however, expressed dismay at the presence of an unlawfully ordained bishop at the ordination. “The presence of a bishop who is not in communion with the Holy Father was inappropriate and shows a lack of consideration for a lawful episcopal ordination,” the statement read. 

However, several news agencies have reported that Bishop Daqin was detained shortly after his ordination, when he announced during his homily that he was resigning from the Patriotic Association. The newly ordained bishop has not been seen since. 

The Vatican statement concluded by encouraging all lay and clergy in China to “defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the Church.” The Holy See also called on China’s government authorities to not continue gestures that would complicate dialogue. “The Apostolic See, trusting in the concrete willingness of the Government Authorities of China to dialogue with the Holy See, hopes that the said authorities will not encourage gestures contrary to such dialogue,” the communique stated. 

“Chinese Catholics also wish to see practical steps taken in this direction, the first among which is the avoidance of illicit celebrations and episcopal ordinations without pontifical mandate that cause division and bring suffering to the Catholic communities in China and the universal Church.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text of communiqué: www.zenit.org/article-35164?l=english

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