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Illicit ordinations risk future of China Church

Vatican note warns that papal mandate needed for Church 'to be Catholic'

  • Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • July 4, 2012
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The Vatican on Tuesday said the planned illicit ordination of Father Joseph Yue Fusheng as Bishop of Harbin would further divide Catholics in the country and threaten the fate of the Church in China.

China Church sources said this week the ordination could take place as early as Friday.

A strongly worded note from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples stated that Chinese government authorities had been informed that the ordination would be conducted without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI and against the wishes of the Catholics of Harbin.

It also said the ordination would “contradict those signals of dialogue” recently put in place “under the auspices of both the Chinese counterpart and the Holy See.”

In recent months, Vatican statements have usually avoided any direct reference to the Beijing government.

“Harbin’s episcopal ordination has been programmed unilaterally and will provoke divisions, splits and tensions within the Catholic community in China,” the note said,  adding that the survival of the Church in China could only happen in communion with Rome.

“If the Church in China is to be Catholic, episcopal ordinations that have no prior papal approval must not take place.”

The note said Fr Yue had previously been informed that he did not have papal approval to be ordained bishop and that he would have no authority to head the Catholic community in Harbin and no recognition by Rome.

Chinese authorities were also warned that Fr Yue and all bishops taking part in the rite would incur latae sententiae, or automatic excommunication.

Quoting at length Pope Benedict’s 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, the notification reiterated that bishop appointments “are a religious, and not a political matter.”

Sources in the Vatican told ucanews.com that negotiations were already under way to ensure the presence of illicitly ordained bishops would not disrupt the Vatican-approved ordination of Thaddeus Ma Daqin as Coadjutor Bishop of Shanghai, which China Church sources said was scheduled for July 7.

The sources added that the Vatican hoped illicitly ordained bishops from a southern province would not lay hands on the new bishop, but only assist at the rite from a prominent position.

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