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China ordains new bishop in defiance of Rome

Catholic World News - July 06, 2012

Defying a warning from the Vatican, Chinese officials ordained a new bishop for the Harbin diocese without approval from the Holy See.

Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, a vice-president of the government-backed Patriotic Association, was ordained on July 6. Five bishops—all of them recognized by the Vatican—participated in the ordination ceremony.

The Vatican had warned that any bishops involved in the illicit ordination would be excommunicated. In the past the Vatican has said that this penalty would not be incurred if the bishops were compelled to join in the ceremony. It is not known whether any of the bishops who joined in the July 6 ceremony were acting under compulsion.

During the ordination, in place of the usual mandate from the Holy See authorizing the bishop’s consecration, officials read a letter of approval from the Chinese bishops’ council. The Vatican does not recognize that body, which includes other bishops ordained without approval from Rome.

Shortly after the service, police released two local priests who had been taken into custody just before the illicit ordination: Father Joseph Zhao Hongchun, who has been serving as apostolic administrator of the Harbin diocese; and his assistant, Father Zhang Xisheng. Both priests had opposed the ordination, as had many of the faithful in Harbin.

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