BY SCO Admin | July 10 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Tension increases between Vatican and China over Episcopal ordinations

Illicitly ordained Chinese bishop incurs automatic excommunication but Vatican praises approved new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai for rejecting state-controlled church role

The Vatican today condemned the appointment of a Chinese Catholic bishop without its approval as questions over the whereabouts of another bishop who has stepped down from the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) were causing concern.

The Vatican said that Fr Joseph Yue Fusheng has been automatically excommunicated following his illict ordination as a bishop but it praised the Vatican –approved new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai (above), whose movements appear to have been restricted by the Chinese government after he said he was giving up his role in the government-run CPA, a body the Vatican says is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

Illicit ordination

“The Holy See does not recognise [Fr Yue] as a 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 today.

Fr Yue was ordained Bishop of Harbin on Friday without Papal mandate following an exchange of notifications between the Vatican and Beijing on the issue of illicit ordinations. The Vatican said the bishops who took part in the ordination had ‘exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the Church,’ which entail automatic excommunication.

Bishops’ ordinations that are not authorised by the Holy Father 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,’ the statement said.

Fr 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,’ the statement continued.

The Vatican said 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.’

Missing auxiliary bishop praised 

The Vatican today described the approved and official ordination on Saturday of Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, as ‘encouraging’ and an ordination ‘to be welcomed’ but added that ‘the presence of a bishop who is not in communion with the Holy Father was inappropriate and shows a lack of consideration for a lawful Episcopal ordination.’

Bishop Ma is the first government-approved bishop in recent years to announce publicly that he would give up his duties with the state-controlled CPA, it has been reported. On Sunday, Bishop Ma failed to show up for his first Mass at St Ignatius Cathedral after telling the congregation at his ordination that he would step down from the local and national offices of the CPA to devote himself entirely to his ministry.

Official sources claimed that Bishop Ma has freedom of movement, but local reports suggest Chinese authorities have restricted him from exercising his Episcopal ministry because they were displeased by the bishop’s speech during his ordination. They said he spent Sunday in Sheshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, where the diocese has a Marian shrine and seminary.

Yesterday, government-sanctioned Church authorities in China had not yet published any report on Saturday’s ordination, though they published reports of Fr Yue’s ordination as bishop.


Across China, many Catholics called for prayers and fasting for Bishop Ma yesterday, the feast of Chinese Martyrs.

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter to Catholics in China stated that the aim of the patriotic association in upholding the independence of the church in China was incompatible with Catholic doctrine.




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