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Vatican will not bar bishops from attending government-backed Assembly

December 20, 2016

The Holy See will allow Chinese bishops to participate in the December meeting of the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, although the Vatican refuses to accept the legitimacy of that organization.

In 2010, the Vatican instructed Chinese bishops not to participate in the last previous meeting of the Assembly. Pope Benedict had written that the government-backed group, which claims authority over the Church in China, is “incompatible with Catholic doctrine.” However, some bishops were compelled by government officials to attend the meeting.

This year the Vatican “will make its judgment on the basis of established facts,” according to a December 20 statement from the Vatican press office. The Assembly meeting comes at a time when the Vatican is reportedly close to an agreement with Beijing on the appointment of new bishops in China. The Vatican statement indicated that Chinese Catholics are now “waiting with trepidation for some positive signs that can help them to have faith in dialogue between civil authorities and the Holy See and to hope for a future of unity and harmony.”

The December 20 statement also addressed recent ordination ceremonies in China, at which public officials insisted on the participation of a bishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican after he was ordained without approval from Rome. His involvement, the Vatican noted, “caused embarrassment to the interested parties and upset many Chinese Catholics.” The Vatican “shares in this pain,” the statement said.

 
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