Hong Kong cardinal in call to excommunicate China bishops

Frustrated over a recent spate of episcopal ordinations not authorised by the Holy See, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has called on Pope Benedict to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops.

The time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance, Cardinal Zen said, according to a UK Daily Telegraph report.

"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

In canon law, both those ordaining and being ordained are liable to excommunication if it is without Church approval.

Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican had acted quickly to excommunicate Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former archbishop of Lusaka who married and then conducted four ordinations of rebel bishops.

Until recently, a compromise held whereby the official Church would only elevate bishops after receiving an indication from Rome that the candidate had the Vatican's approval. But according to Cardinal Zen, this compromise had run its course, the Telegraph said.

Excommunicating bishops would mark a major break between the Vatican and the Chinese Church, which is regarded as estranged from but still "in communion" with the mainstream.

But the Cardinal said that Beijing had been using the ordinations as a show of force. He also alleged that two other bishops loyal to Rome were abducted by the authorities to take part in the service to lend it credibility.

Cardinal Zen, who was born in Shanghai, said that it was now time to offer clear leadership to the underground Church, which had suffered for its "heroic resistance" to the state.

Meanwhile, a Chinese government television station has extolled the growth of the Catholic Church in China.

According to a CCTV program this week, more and more young Chinese people are coming to church to worship.

"There are more than five million Catholics in China now. That's twice the number it was 50 years ago," the CCTV report says.

The report quotes Sr Theresa Ying Mulan, superior of St Joseph Convent of Beijing Diocese, as saying "now is the prime time for pastoral spread in China".

"Explicit support from the government and regulations written into the Constitution are part of the country's efforts to protect religious practice," Sr Theresa said.

Sack China's bishops, cardinal tells Vatican (UK Telegraph, 21/12/06)
Catholicism growing in China video (CCTV, 18/12/06)
Catholicism growing in China (CCTV, 18/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cardinal Zen Zi-Kiun (Wikipedia)
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, SDB (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Chinese Bishop abducted, escapes over illicit ordination (CathNews, 1/12/06) Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Cardinal Zen urges suspension of bishop Beijing ordained (CathNews, 1/5/06)

22 Dec 2006