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China challenges Vatican with new bishop's ordination

June 29, 2011

Ignoring warnings from Rome, authorities in China have ordained a new Catholic bishop without the approval of the Holy See.

The illicit ordination took place on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The selection of that date—when bishops from throughout the world celebrate their communion with the Holy See—underlines the Chinese defiance of the Vatican.

Father Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained as the Bishop of Leshan, with Bishop Johan Fang Xinyao, the head of the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association, as principal consecrator. About 1,000 people reportedly attended the ceremony, including six other bishops who participated in the ordination.

The Vatican has complained in the past that Chinese clerics have been compelled to attend such ceremonies, against their will. Nevertheless, the Vatican has also said that these illicit ordinations do irreparable harm to the unity of the Church, and those who participate in them are obliged to make some public reparation.

The new bishop explained his own willingness to defy the Vatican by saying that he had sought approval from Rome, but could wait no longer for an answer. He told the UCAN news service that “we have to consider the Church’s survival,” and “must work according to the reality.”

While these explanations by Bishop Lei Shiyin echo the usual rationale given by leaders of the “official” Catholic Church for ignoring directives from Rome, the June 29 creates scandals of a different sort because the new bishop is widely known to have had an affair with a woman and to be the father of a child.

Earlier this week, Chinese officials abruptly postponed plans to ordain another bishop, for the Handan diocese. Father Joseph Sun Jigen, who had been slated for episcopal ordination on June 29, was taken into police custody. He had reportedly sought and obtained the approval of the Holy See before the day of his planned ordination.

Chinese officials have said that they plan to install as many as 40 new bishops, without waiting for Vatican approval. The Vatican has issued a grim reminder that the penalty for ordaining a bishop without the approval of the Holy See is excommunication.


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  • Posted by: claire5327 - Jun. 29, 2011 6:28 PM ET USA

    "Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, render to God what belongs to God." The Church was founded by the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Jesus the Lord, Savor of souls, that She will not interferes Caesar's business. Pray that the Chinese government leaves the Church to mind Her soul saving business by giving freedom to the servants of the Church in China to run Her soul caring jobs which will enable them to grow better citizens to serve China as a whole! Amen!