China Aid Association
By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, AP
VATICAN CITY (May 4) – The Vatican on Thursday excommunicated two
bishops ordained by China’s state-controlled church without the pope’s
consent, escalating tensions as the two sides explored preliminary moves
toward improving ties.
Chinese Bishop Liu Xinhong greets a crowd
China’s Catholic Bishop Liu Xinhong, greeting a crowd Wednesday at the
city of Wuhu’s Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, was one of the four bishops
excommunicated by the Vatican.
The Vatican also excommunicated the two bishops who ordained them,
citing church law.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls cited Article 1382 of the Roman
Catholic Church’s canon law. That article states that “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,”‘ which means they are automatically
Earlier, Navarro-Valls said Pope Benedict XVI was deeply saddened by
news of the ordinations, which have occurred in recent weeks.
“It is a great wound to the unity of the church,” Navarro-Valls said in
Chinese Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the
excommunications. But earlier, a duty officer referred to an April 30
statement issued after the Vatican criticized the first ordination.
“The criticism toward the Chinese side by the Vatican is groundless,”
that statement said. “We hope the Vatican can respect the will of
Chinese church and the vast numbers of priests as well as its church
members so as to create good atmosphere for the improvement of
On Wednesday, the official church, known as the Chinese Patriotic
Catholic Association, ordained Liu Xinhong as bishop at the city of
Wuhu’s St. Joseph’s Church in the eastern province of Anhui.
It was the second ordination in three days without the consent of the
Vatican, which traditionally appoints its own bishops. On Sunday,
China’s official church ordained Ma Yinglin as a bishop in the
southwestern province of Yunnan.
The association has said the new appointments were meant to fill
shortages and were not intended to offend the Vatican.
The Vatican statement said officials had received information indicating
that “bishops and priests have been subjected – by institutions not
related to the church – to strong pressures and threats, in order for
them to take part in the ordinations that, because they were not
approved by the Vatican, are illegitimate and go against their
“We are therefore faced with a grave violation of religious freedom,”
Navarro-Valls said, adding the Vatican “had thought and hoped that such
despicable events belonged to the past.”
The ordinations come as China and the Holy See try to re-establish ties
that ended after communists took control of China in 1949.
Formal ties would give some security to Vatican loyalists in China, who
are frequently harassed and fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.
Most Chinese Catholics are only allowed to worship in
government-controlled churches, but millions are loyal to the Vatican.
But the Vatican said any dialogue was at risk now.
“The Holy See has in various occasions reiterated its willingness to
have an honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese
authorities to find solutions that would satisfy the legitimate
requirements of both sides,” Navarro-Valls said.
“Initiatives such as those mentioned above not only don’t favor this
dialogue, but instead create new obstacles against it.”
The Holy See also expressed alarm at reports that 20 more bishops might
be ordained without Vatican approval and stressed “the need for respect
for freedom of the church and for the autonomy of its institutions from
any external interference.”
It added the Vatican “sincerely hopes that there will not be a
repetition of these unacceptable acts of violence and inadmissible acts
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