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Patriotic Association takes control at ordination of Chinese bishop

Catholic World News - April 25, 2012

The ordination of a new Chinese bishop on April 25 was marred by the control exerted on the ceremony by the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Timothy Qu Ailen, who was ordained to head the Changsa diocese, had the approval of the Holy See. But among the bishops participating in his ordination were one who is excommunicated (Bishop Liu Xinhong of Wuhu) and another whose status is unclear (Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing), because of their previous involvement in illicit ordinations.

Liu Yuanlong, the vice-president of the Patriotic Association, also participated in the event, reading a message of approval from his group and from the government’s religious-affairs department. A large number of government officials attended the ceremony, and relatively few members of the Catholic faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI has written that Catholics cannot accept the authority of the Patriotic Association, since it directly challenges the jurisdiction of the Holy See. Chinese bishops who have participated in ordinations without the approval of the Holy See are subject to excommunication, unless they acted under duress. Bishop Li Shan of Beijing apparently was coerced into joining in previous illicit ordinations; Bishop Liu Xinhong was himself ordained without Vatican approval and thus excommunicated.

Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service (and a former missionary in China) remarks that the heavy-handed involvement of the government in the ordination demonstrates that “Maoism is still alive in China.” He explains that the Communist Party provides bishops with salaries and perquisites, “turning them into quasi-low-ranking quasi officials of the Chinese government.” When new bishops are chosen by the Pope, he adds, the Party forces them “to suffer the presence of illegitimate and excommunicated bishops, as was the case last March 19 in Nanchong, and Changsha today. The two candidates are good pastors, but it was the government to choose who should and who should not be invited to consecrate.”

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  • Posted by: spledant7672 - Apr. 25, 2012 6:35 PM ET USA

    I know there is much that I do not know about the duress of the exact circumstances on these occasions in China - far be it from me to judge. So, this is in no way a rhetorical question but an actual perplexity for me: why does the Church in China not conduct ordinations without the knowledge of and apart from the Patriotic Association? Some reporting on that might provide some helpful.

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