Illicitly ordained Chinese bishop incurs automatic excommunication
“The Holy See does not recognize him as bishop of the apostolic administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the province of Heilongjiang,” the Vatican said in a written statement July 10.
It also praised the new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, who has been restricted by the government after saying he would give up his role in the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association.
Father Yue was ordained bishop of Harbin July 6 without papal mandate following an acrimonious exchange of notifications between the Vatican and Beijing on the issue of illicit ordinations.
Five Vatican-approved bishops took part in the rite, held at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province. Two other Vatican-approved prelates who were invited to the ceremony did not attend, citing illnesses, but sent messages of apology and congratulation.
The Vatican said that those bishops who took part in the July 6 ordination had “exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the church,” which entail automatic excommunication.
Bishops’ ordinations that are not authorized by the pope generally bring the penalty of automatic excommunication; however, because in some cases there may be mitigating circumstances — including fear of reprisal, necessity or serious inconvenience — those bishops in attendance “must give an account to the Holy See of their participation in that religious ceremony,” it said.
Father Yue automatically incurred the penalty of excommunication because he “had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, and on several occasions he had been asked not to accept episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate,” it said.
On July 3, the Vatican issued a strongly worded statement warning Chinese authorities the ordination of Father Yue violated church law, jeopardized the future of the Catholic Church in China and would incur the automatic excommunication of any prelates taking part in the rite.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs responded July 4, calling the warnings “outrageous and shocking” and saying self-election and self-ordination would continue despite the Vatican’s position on the matter.
The Vatican said July 10 that it was still committed to dialogue with Chinese authorities but warned against continued illicit celebrations and episcopal ordinations without papal approval, saying such acts not only harm dialogue but also “cause division and bring suffering to the Catholic communities in China and the universal church.”
The Vatican statement expressed its appreciation for all those who prayed and fasted “for a change of heart” in Father Yue and for the unity of the church in China. [More]