Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin presides over priestly ordination on March 26
It has been revealed that one American and two Korean priests were among the concelebrants at last month’s controversial Mass and ordination in Dali city, Yunnan province, which was presided over by an illegitimate bishop, Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming.
As the bishop is not recognized by the Holy See, there are fears that the event may harm the unity of the Church in China.
One canonist outside the country, who preferred to remain anonymous, was especially concerned about the foreign priests’ participation.
“The Code of Canon Law forbids an excommunicated person, bishop or priest, to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to celebrate the sacraments and sacramentals and to receive the sacraments,” he said.
“This is also binding on any legitimate priests who take part in an illicit act performed by an illicit bishop.”
He added that “those priests should give an explanation of the facts and ask for pardon to their legitimate ordinaries. The general superiors also have to inform the Holy See.”
However, he also expressed his opinion that “behind all these illicit acts and irregularities stands the policy of the Communist party, who use the Church and their clergy for other purposes, while ignoring the religious one.”
Father John Baptist, a priest and blogger, was even more scathing about the foreigners’ involvement.
“Their act is like an injection of heart stimulants to the separatists of the China Church, seriously misleading and confusing the Catholics. It was done either out of unforgivable ignorance or malice,” he said.
“It not only hurts the China Church but also damages the trust of Chinese Catholics in the universal Church,” he continued, “as they may think the Vatican is a hypocrite, condemning illicit bishops while still allowing foreign priests to concelebrate with them.”
Father Hua Bei, a priest in northern China, recalled a similar incident in 2010 when retired Archbishop Joseph Cheng Tsai-fa of Taipei went back to his home town to attend the episcopal ordination of Joseph Cai Bingrui as Bishop of Xiamen (Amoy) diocese.
One of his concelebrants was an illegitimate bishop, Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong. “It is impossible that Archbishop Cheng did not anticipate that the illegitimate bishop would be there,” said Fr Hua Bei, who claims that Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association then seized upon the archbishop’s involvement to support the "self-election and self-ordination" of bishops.
“This time, three foreign priests have attended a liturgy in which Bishop Ma ordained priests under his illegitimate status,” he said. “Won’t that give another opportunity to rationalize illicit ordinations?”
At the ordination in Yunnan, a local source claimed that the foreign priests had arrived without invitation, but said “we had no reason not to let them concelebrate.”
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