Pope Expresses Deep Regret Over Chinese Ordination

Holy See Decries "Grave Violation" of Religious Freedom

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing regret over the illicit episcopal ordination in China of Father Joseph Guo Jincai. The Holy See is investigating the forced participation of prelates in this ceremony.

The Pope received the news of Saturday's ceremony "with deep regret, because the above-mentioned episcopal ordination was conferred without the apostolic mandate and, therefore, constitutes a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and a grave violation of Catholic discipline," a Vatican communiqué stated today.

It also reported that "in recent days, 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."

"Such constraints, carried out by Chinese government and security authorities, constitute a grave violation of freedom of religion and conscience," the statement asserted.

It noted that "the Holy See intends to carry out a detailed evaluation of what has happened, including consideration of the aspect of validity and the canonical position of the bishops involved."

UCANews reported that the prelates who participated in the ordination for the bishop of Chengde included Bishop Peter Fang Jingping of Tangshan, Bishop Joseph Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng, Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Hengshui, and Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxin of Baoding. Bishop Jingping was the presiding celebrant.

The report noted that many of these bishops were taken away by government officials for the days preceding the ceremony.

At the ordination Mass itself, over 100 police surrounded the area. Cameras were prohibited and mobile phone signals were blocked.

The Vatican communiqué stated that "in any case, this has painful repercussions.

"In the first case," it explained, "for the Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai who, because of this episcopal ordination, finds himself in a most serious canonical condition before the Church in China and the universal Church, exposing himself also to the severe sanctions envisaged, in particular, by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law."

Canon 1382 states: "Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a 'latae sententiae' excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See."

Imposition

The Vatican lamented, "This ordination not only does not contribute to the good of the Catholics of Chengde, but places them in a very delicate and difficult condition, also from the canonical point of view, and humiliates them, because the Chinese civil authorities wish to impose on them a pastor who is not in full communion, either with the Holy Father or with the other bishops throughout the world."

It noted that the Holy See "communicated clearly to the Chinese authorities its opposition to the episcopal ordination of the Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai" several times over the past year.

"In spite of this, the said authorities decided to proceed unilaterally, to the detriment of the atmosphere of respect that had been created with great effort with the Holy See and with the Catholic Church through the recent episcopal ordinations," the communiqué reported.

It added, "This claim to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community does not correspond to Catholic doctrine; it offends the Holy Father, the Church in China and the universal Church, and further complicates the present pastoral difficulties."

The Holy See reiterated its "willingness to engage in a respectful and constructive dialogue with the authorities of the People's Republic of China, with the aim of overcoming the difficulties and normalizing relations."

In this light, it noted with "regret that the authorities allow the leadership of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, under the influence of Mr. Liu Bainian, to adopt attitudes that gravely damage the Catholic Church and hamper the aforesaid dialogue."

Bishop Jincai is the vice secretary-general of the Catholic Patriotic Association. The Chinese government currently permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Religious Affairs Office and under the control of the Patriotic Association.

This explains the difference between the "national" or "official" Church, and the faithful who oppose such control and who wish to obey the Pope directly. The latter constitute the non-official, or underground, Church.

Created by the Chinese authorities in 1955, Chengde is not recognized as a diocese by the Vatican. It has some six priests, 15 religious, 16 parishes and 20,000 lay faithful.

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