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China postpones illicit ordination of new bishop

June 07, 2011

Chinese officials have postponed plans to ordain a new bishop without Vatican approval.

The ordination of Father Shen Guoan as Bishop of Hankou had been scheduled for Friday, June 10. Chinese clerics report that the ceremony has been postponed. Officials gave neither an explanation nor a date for the rescheduled ceremony.

The postponement provides at least a respite in a tense struggle between the Vatican and the government-back Catholic Patriotic Association for control of the Church in China, and especially for control of episcopal appointments.

The ordination of a bishop without approval from the Holy See is punishable by excommunication—as the Vatican has warned Chinese officials. But Liu Bainian, the head of the Patriotic Association, has insisted that China will proceed with unauthorized ordinations, claiming that the Chinese people have the right to select their own bishops without Vatican “interference.”

Vatican officials—led by Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, had sternly warned that another illicit episcopal ordination would cause severe damage to the unity of the Church in China. In the past the Vatican has complained bitterly that Chinese police forced some bishops to participate in such ordinations against their will. Archbishop Hon suggested that in the case of the Hankou diocese, even Father Shen Guoan—the proposed candidate for episcopal office—was opposed to the move.


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