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Vatican rejects Chinese bishop's authority, warns others on excommunication

Catholic World News - July 04, 2011

In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican has announced that a Chinese bishop installed by the government-backed Patriotic Catholic Association last week “has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community.”

Father Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained on June 29 without the required approval from the Pope. The Vatican announced on July 4 that “the Holy See does not recognize him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan.”

The Vatican statement went on to say that the illicltly ordained bishop is subject to “the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of canon 1382.” That canon stipulates that a bishop who is ordained without a mandate from the Holy See is subject to automatic excommunication.

The Vatican added that other bishops who participated in the June 29 ordination ceremony “have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions” imposed under the same provision of canon law. Recent Vatican statements have indicated that Chinese bishops may not be subject to excommunication if they were compelled to participate in illicit ordinations.

An unauthorized ordination “damages the unity of the Church,” and the ceremony in the Leshan diocese “sows divisions and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China,” the Vatican said.

The ordination “deeply saddened the Holy Father,” the Vatican said, but added that he “wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity.”

Underlining the Vatican’s unflinching opposition to China’s efforts to create an autonomous Catholic body, the Vatican statement said: “If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church’s doctrine and discipline must be respected.”

In a related development, Chinese authorities apparently arrested two priests of the Handan diocese, just days after having taken into custody another priest who was to have been ordained as bishop of the diocese.

The two priests, the chancellor of the diocese and a member of the presbyteral council, disappeared after they went to question officials about the previous disappearance of Father Sun Jigen.

The ordination of Father Sun Jigen as Bishop of Handan had been scheduled for June 29. Shortly after it emerged that the bishop-elect had obtained Vatican approval for his installation, Chinese authorities postponed the ceremony and took Father Sun into custody.

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