The ongoing troubles in China over relations with the Vatican and the status of the Catholic Church continue to be bad with news that the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association plans another illicit episcopal ordination.
The Communist Chinese government requires Christians to worship only in state-controlled associations, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which eschews any connections to the Vatican or the Pope. Many Catholics worship in illegal, underground churches, following only bishops appointed by the Pope, although the divisions are not hard and fast. Many priests and laypeople, and even bishops, are members of the patriotic association in public, and of the underground Church, in secret.
There appeared to be progress in the relationship with Rome being given a chance to grant approval to bishops before their ordination. However last spring the Patriotic Association carried out the ordination of five bishops without Vatican approval. The Vatican responded by warning that illicit ordinations can result in excommunication latae sententiae. Now it looks like they’re doing it again with an ordination scheduled for November 30, this Thursday.
Local sources of Xuzhou have confirmed to AsiaNews that on November 30 at 8 a.m., Fr Wang Renlei, Vicar General of the diocese, will be ordained bishop in a ceremony led by the diocese’s current bishop, Monsignor Qian Yurong. This is one of the few bishops of the official Church who has not sought reconciliation with the Pope and is thus not in communion with the Holy See; he is well known for his pro-government positions. The episcopal candidate, Fr Wang, was ordained to the priesthood in 1996 and is known as an easy-going person who is very timid toward the government.
AsiaNews sources say that Wang was elected more than a week ago according to the “democratic method”, in a meeting which took place in one of the city’s hotels. The 8 priests of the diocese would have opted for a priest who is more determined and courageous in defending Church freedom, but “everything had already be decided beforehand by the officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau.”
One step forward, two steps back. What may be most significant is that the moves are not necessarily coming at the impetus of the Communist government in Beijing, which has been in negotiations with the Vatican over the Holy See’s official diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, a breakaway province in Beijing’s view, but are coming from the leadership of the Patriotic Association. While 80 percent of the PA’s bishops have reconciled with the Pope, that remaining 20 percent resents the loss of local control and power and prestige and is doing everything its power to sabotage the progress that has been made so far.
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