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China: one bishop excommunicated, another arrested

Catholic World News - July 10, 2012

The Vatican announced the excommunication of a Chinese bishop who was ordained without the approval of the Holy See, while Chinese authorities have taken into custody another bishop who proclaimed his loyalty to Rome and renounced the government-backed Patriotic Association.

In a July 10 statement, the Vatican announced that Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained on July 6 in Harbin, “has automatically incurred the sanctions laid down by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law.” The statement added that the Holy See will not recognize him as a bishop, and the priests of Harbin are not obliged to obey his orders.

In the same statement, the Vatican applauded the ordination of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin as an auxiliary of the Shanghai diocese, saying that July 7 ceremony was “encouraging and is to be welcomed.” Bishop Ma had been ordained with the approval of both the Holy See and the Chinese government.

However, Bishop Ma caused a sensation when, in the course of his episcopal ordination, he announced that he was quitting the government-backed Patriotic Association—an announcement that prompted enthusiastic applause from the congregation. The newly ordained bishop also declined to share the Communion chalice with a bishop who had been illicitly ordained without the Vatican’s approval.

Shortly after his ordination, Bishop Ma was taken into custody by Chinese officials. He did not appear as scheduled to celebrate Mass the following day, and was eventually reported to be “resting” at a seminary. Friends disclosed that he was actually being held, effectively a prisoner, and might be detained for months.

The Vatican statement regarding the unauthorized ordination in Harbin said that the bishops who participated in the July 6 ordination ceremony “must give an account to the Holy See” for their involvement. The Vatican has warned in the past that bishops who participate in illicit episcopal ordinations will also be subject to excommunication, but the penalty is not imposed if the bishops acted under compulsion. On multiple occasions, Chinese authorities have reportedly forced bishops to attend ordinations.

The Vatican statement offered thanks to the faithful of Harbin who had fasted and prayed for the cause of Church unity, hoping that the illicit ordination would not take place. The Holy See disclosed:

The Reverend Yue Fusheng had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, and on several occasions he had been asked not to accept episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate.

Noting that the illicit ordinations sanctioned by Chinese authorities “cause division and bring suffering to the Catholic communities,” the Holy See made an appeal to Beijing, promising a willingness to engage in dialogue and hoping “that the said authorities will not encourage gestures contrary to such dialogue.” Meanwhile Bishop Ma, whose firm stance against government encroachment has made him a hero to loyal Chinese Catholics, is confined to the grounds of the Sheshan seminary. Nevertheless Father Bernardo Cervellera of the AsiaNews service observes that Bishop Ma is an inspiration to Chinese Catholics.

The bishop’s rejection of the Patriotic Association, Father Cevellera adds, is beneficial on two scores. First, the Patriotic Association interferes directly with the freedom of the Church and the communion of the Chinese Church with the Holy See—for which reasons it has been condemned by the Vatican as incompatible with true Catholic thought. Second, the bureaucratic requirements of the Patriotic Association, which force bishops to operate under the organization’s control, interfere with the ordinary pastoral work of bishops.

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  • Posted by: Defender - Jul. 10, 2012 6:27 PM ET USA

    Those who participate never seem to suffer any repercussions. I thought bishops (et al) were all prepared to suffer for the Faith, in China this could mean confinement, reeducation or martyrdom. In the U.S., it only seems to be bad press.

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