Bishop John Fang Xingyao of Linyi presides over a bishop's ordination in 2010
Eleven dioceses have elected their bishop candidates and are awaiting the approval of the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, according to the head of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
The candidates were being elected to fill vacant sees in China and for the spread of the Gospel, Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, chair of the government-sanctioned Church authority told the official China Daily
in an article published today.
Vacancies in 44 out of 97 dioceses have seriously hindered evangelization work in China, where there are around six million Catholics, he noted.
Church observers outside mainland China have criticized some people for trying to manipulate information.
“The news sounds provocative,” said one observer, who warned Catholics in mainland China to check the canonical status of these candidates as not all of them have been approved by the Holy See.
“We don’t know who these 11 candidates are but we are certain that if anyone accepts to be ordained without a papal mandate, he is exposing himself to sanctions envisaged by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law,” said Anthony Lam Sui-ki, executive secretary of the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.
Illicit ordinations contribute nothing to the Church and act against the communion of the Church, he said.
It could also be a “slap in the face for Beijing” as no one can be sure that illicit bishops might not ask for communion with the Vatican, Lam noted, citing that Joseph Ma Yinglin, the bishop who received an illicit ordination in 2006, has also written to the Pope asking for communion.
One should avoid doing things that “sadden the Church while embarrassing the central government,” he added.
China and Vatican relations have been tense since an illicit ordination that took place in Chengde and the staging of the Eighth National Catholic Representatives Congress last year.
Impacts brought about by both incidents are expected to be discussed at the Vatican’s China commission’s three-day plenary meeting, beginning today.
Pope Benedict XVI established the commission in 2007 to study major issues regarding the Church in China. Its members include the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia with expertise in this area and by representatives of the Chinese episcopate and religious congregations.