The State Administration for Religious Affairs today struck back at the Vatican a day after it issued a stern warning against a planned illicit ordination in Heilongjiang province.
The Vatican statement said the ordination of Bishop Yue Fusheng of Harbin violated Church law, the express wishes of Pope Benedict XVI and Chinese Catholics in general, and could threaten the future of the Catholic Church in the country.
The statement also warned that any prelate participating in the ordination would face automatic excommunication.
In response, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which oversees operations of China’s five authorized religions including the government-sanctioned Catholic Church, issued its own statement dismissing the Vatican warning as “extremely outrageous and shocking.”
Any accusation and interference to normal religious activities shows a restriction of freedom and intolerance, which “is detrimental to the healthy development of the Catholic Church in China and harmful to the universal Church,” said an unnamed spokesman in the statement.
“We hope that the Vatican can assess the situation rationally and calmly, respect the wishes of Chinese Catholics and clergy and not threaten [them] with so-called excommunication,” the statement said, adding that in the absence of any formal agreement between Beijing and the Vatican, self-election and self-ordination would continue.
A Hong Kong-based Church observer who asked not to be named said China has taken a firmly political approach to the ordination of bishops, contrary to the directives of the Holy See.
“Beijing has made clear that the religious ordination of Catholic bishops in China, whether licit or illicit, is not a religious act but a political one in which the government is authorized either to change Church doctrine or ignore it,” the observer said.
“This is destroying the Catholic Church to create something new. Such an act violates the Chinese constitution and the unity of Catholic believers since it is very clear that bishops, clergy and laypeople want to be united with the Universal Church.”
Earlier today Liu Yuanlong, Beijing-based vice chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) said he had not yet read the Vatican statement but confirmed that the ordination of Bishop Yue would take place on Friday and would be officiated by CCPA chairperson Bishop Johan Fang Xinyao of Linyi.
China Church sources have said that five other Vatican-approved bishops would likely participate in the ordination.
Illicit ordinations risk future of China Church
Harbin illicit ordination this week