Mon, May 01, 2006 - Page 4 News List

China gets new bishop

VATICAN IGNORED The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association ordained Ma Yinglin in a televised ceremony in Kunming, amid very tight security


China's state-sanctioned Catholic church ordained a new bishop yesterday, rejecting the Vatican's request to hold off until both sides could approve the appointment.

The move could damage recent efforts to restore Sino-Vatican ties, cut in 1951 after the Chinese Communist Party took control in China. One of the stumbling blocks in improving relations has long been a dispute over who has the authority to appoint bishops.

China's church -- the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association -- held a ceremony for the new bishop, Ma Yinglin (馬英林), yesterday in Kunming. Hong Kong Cable TV showed Ma wearing his new bishop's hat and carrying an ornate gold staff as he waved to the faithful.

Before the ceremony, the TV report showed a long line of clergy in white robes walking into a church with a Chinese-style sloping roof with yellow tiles. Security was tight with police checking people -- who could only attend if invited -- at the church entrance, the TV report said.

Outside the church, ethnic minorities from Yunnan performed, with dancing women on one side of the sidewalk twirling and clapping their hands as men on the other side played banjo-like instruments.

"We are extremely happy to participate in Father Ma Yinglin's ordination," one dancing woman wearing an ornate headdress decorated with silver balls told the TV station. "He's been a big help to us. This year when we built a new church, he gave us part of the money."

One middle-aged man in a brown blazer told the TV station he was pleased with Ma's ordination.

"I think he has a lot of prestige. In the hearts of the faithful here, we feel really good about the way he treats people and how he handles things for everyone," said the man, who wasn't identified.

AsiaNews, a Vatican-linked news agency, has reported the Vatican opposed Ma because he doesn't have enough pastoral experience and he's too close to the official Chinese church's leaders.

But in Hong Kong yesterday, Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君) told reporters the Vatican has yet to make a final assessment of Ma and wanted China to hold off appointing him until Rome could make a decision.

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