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China, Vatican spar over ordination of bishop as contentious issue again roils relations
A statement issued Wednesday by China’s State Bureau of Religious Affairs accused the Holy See of obstructing the development of Catholicism in China by wielding the threat of excommunication over the ordination of a new bishop of the northern city of Harbin.
“We urge the Vatican to rescind the so-called ‘excommunication’ threat and return to the correct position of dialogue,” the statement said.
That followed a note from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome that China’s candidate, the Rev. Yue Fusheng, did not have papal approval and risks excommunication if he agrees to be ordained, along with any bishops participating in the ceremony.
Without papal approval “divisions, wounds, and tensions are created within the Catholic community in China,” the note said. It also stressed that the pope’s insistence on naming bishops is purely religious, not political, and that he was in no way seeking to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.
Bishops, priests and parishioners are reluctant to attend the ceremony, expected to be held Friday, and security is tight around the Harbin church, according to AsiaNews, a website with close Vatican ties. Those claims could not immediately be verified.
China’s officially atheistic communist government ordered Chinese Catholics to cut ties with Rome more than five decades ago, and Beijing and the Vatican have no formal relations.
In China, worship is allowed only in state-backed churches, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to the pope.
The sides have repeatedly sparred over the right to appoint bishops, with Rome insisting that can be done only with papal approval, as is the case in other countries and regions. China calls that interference and says its own congregations have the right to choose bishops, although the process is ultimately directed by the Communist Party-controlled Patriotic Catholic Association. [More]