Vatican dismay over new China bishop ordination blow

A Chinese bishop who is one the few remaining bishops still without approval from the Holy See plans to ordain a new bishop this week in what some observers say may be the first in another wave of unauthorised episcopal ordinations.

AsiaNews reports that the illicit ordination will take place in the city of Xuzhou in the Jiangsu region of eastern-central China on 30 November.

Local sources of Xuzhou told AsiaNews that Fr Wang Renlei, the diocese's Vicar General, is to be ordained bishop in a ceremony led by current local Bishop Qian Yurong.

Bishop Qian is one of the few bishops of the official Church who has not sought reconciliation with the Pope and is thus not in communion with the Holy See.

According to AsiaNews, Fr Wang, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1996, is well known for his pro-government positions.

Fr Wang was elected by a "democratic method" at a city hotel meeting more than a week ago, AsiaNews believes.

Although the eight priests of the diocese would have opted for a priest who is more determined and courageous in defending Church freedom, "everything had already be decided beforehand" by government officials.

AsiaNews says that there are unverified rumours say that two other bishops will arrive "from Beijing" to take part in the ceremony. Rumours also say that government authorities have promised to give the diocese 6 million yuan (about 600,000 euros) to cover costs for the ordination, an enormous sum for a diocese of 20,000 members.

Several months ago, the government's Patriotic Association and the Religious Affairs Bureau carried out a series of ordinations without the Holy See's permission. The Vatican harshly criticised the gesture as "a serious violation of religious freedom".

The wave of international criticism against China's gesture and the visit of a Vatican delegation to Beijing last June seemed to have defused the crisis.

Vatican figures are now said to be "dismayed" by the news of the forthcoming ordination and told AsiaNews that they hope the "ordination is cancelled."

However, other AsiaNews sources claim that the Patriotic Association is trying to ordain dozens of bishops without the approval of the Holy See, for the purpose of destroying all the work of reconciliation carried out so far between the Chinese Church and the Pope.

More than 80 per cent of Chinese bishops of the official Church are currently reconciled with the Pope.

Jiangsu: a new bishop to be ordained without Holy See approval (AsiaNews, 27/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church in China (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Released Chinese bishop seeks reconciliation (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Chinese bishop released after 10 years in prison (CathNews, 28/8/06)
Holy See sends envoys to Beijing for secret talks (CathNews, 19/6/06)
China's first Catholic non-profit approved but arrests continue (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews, 5/5/06)
Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews, 9/9/05)
Rome condemns arrest of Chinese bishops/murder of Korean hostage (CathNews, 23/6/04)
Chinese bishop freed from detention after foreign visitors depart (CathNews, 17/3/04)

28 Nov 2006