The Vatican said yesterday that it had automatically excommunicated two bishops ordained by China's state-approved Catholic Church, as well as the two bishops who officiated at the ceremony without Vatican consent.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls cited Roman Catholic Church law that calls for automatic excommunication for those doing the ordination as well as for the ordained.
The ordinations took place on Sunday and Wednesday without Vatican approval, and Navarro-Valls in a statement denounced them as a "grave violation of religious freedom."
According to the statement, the Vatican 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 conscience."
The Vatican said some prelates refused, while others "could not do anything else but submit ... with great inner suffering."
A Vatican official said the fact that the prelates may have been pressured was important.
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