Fr Joseph Yue Fusheng (middle) received episcopal ordination without papal mandate today
Father Joseph Yue Fusheng was ordained bishop of Harbin today without papal mandate following an acrimonious exchange of notifications this week between the Vatican and Beijing on the issue of illicit ordinations.
Five Vatican-approved bishops took part in the rite, held at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Harbin city, capital of Heilongjiang province.
Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Assocation (CCPA), served as the main celebrant. Co-ordainers included Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Shenyang (Liaoning), Bishop John Wang Renlei of Xuzhou and Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Yang Yonggiang of Zhouchun.
Bishop Wang, who was illicitly ordained in 2006, was approved by the Holy See earlier this year but has not yet been officially appointed by Rome.
Some 40 priests from in and outside Heilongjiang province concelebrated the ordination Mass attended by about 400 people.
“I know the road ahead is tortuous, but I have no regrets. I am willing to conform to God’s call and take up the heavy cross,” Fr Yue told the congregation following his ordination.
Authorities maintained tight security at the ordination, according to local Church sources. Attendees were prohibited from moving freely within the Church or take photographs.
A main road outside the Church was sealed off and access granted only to those with entry permits.
The sources added that two “underground” priests – Fr Joseph Zhao Hongchun, the Vatican-appointed Apostolic Administrator of Harbin, and his assistant Fr Zhang Xisheng – were released from detention following the ordination.
They had been detained earlier this week to prevent them from creating problems ahead of the ordination ceremony, the sources said.
Two Vatican-approved prelates who were invited to the ceremony – Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing and Bishop Methodius Qu Ailin of Changsha – did not attend, citing illnesses, but sent messages of apology and congratulation.
On Tuesday the Vatican issued a strongly worded statement warning Chinese authorities the ordination of Fr Yue violated Church law, jeopardized the future of the Catholic Church in China and would incur the automatic excommunication of any prelates taking part in the rite.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs responded on Wednesday in a statement calling the warnings “outrageous and shocking” and saying self-election and self-ordination would continue despite the Vatican’s position on the matter.
A source close to the Vatican who asked not to be named said the prelates participating in today’s ordination would need to communicate with Rome.
“They need to write to the Holy See and provide an explanation.”
Fr Yue, a vice chairman of the CCPA, was born in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1988. He was elected as a bishop candidate in 1999 and reconfirmed during a meeting on May 16 this year.
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