Vatican, China clash over bishop's ordination

November 24, 2010

HONG KONG (RNS/ENInews) Vatican and Hong Kong cardinals criticized
the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association for organizing the
ordination of a Catholic bishop in northeastern China without Vatican
approval.


On Wednesday (Nov. 24), the Vatican called the ordination a grave
violation of the freedom of religion after the state-approved Catholic
Church ordained the bishop without the prior approval of Pope Benedict
XVI.


The Rev. Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained Nov. 20 amid tight security
at the Pingquan church in Chengde city. Beijing and the Vatican have
clashed repeatedly over who has the authority to ordain bishops, with
China insisting on no "foreign interference" in the life of the Chinese
church.


Under a tacit agreement worked out in recent years, the state church
would retain the power to name bishops as long as the names are first
submitted to the Vatican for review and approval.


"Various bishops were subjected to pressures and restrictions on
their freedom of movement, with the aim of forcing them to participate
and confer the episcopal ordination," the Vatican said. "Such
constraints, carried out by Chinese government and security authorities,
constitute a grave violation of freedom of religion and conscience."


Eight Catholic bishops concelebrated the ordinations, and at least
two of them were reported to have been forced to join the ceremony.


The Vatican said it had communicated its opposition to Guo's
ordination in advance to Beijing but Chinese authorities proceeded
unilaterally.


"It offends the Holy Father, the church in China and the universal
church, and further complicates the present pastoral difficulties," said
the Vatican statement.


Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who attended a recent
meeting at the Vatican from, said that the ordination involved "the
kidnapping of persons, the cutting of all communication, the huge
display of police force as if dealing with dangerous criminals."


In Beijing, Liu Bainain, the vice-president of the state-sanctioned
Catholic church, denied that bishops had been forced to join the
ordination, saying accusations of coercion came from those with
"political motives."