Mon, May 08, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Vatican blesses PRC's new bishop pick

SOVEREIGN RIGHTS In keeping with China's propensity to `go it alone,' a new priest has been unilaterally appointed, but this time with the Vatican's apparent approval

AGENCIES , BEIJING

China consecrated a US-educated Chinese priest as an assistant bishop with papal blessing yesterday, just days after Pope Benedict condemned the unilateral ordination of two bishops by Beijing.

The consecration of Father Paul Pei Junmin (裴軍民), 37, was held at a Catholic church in Shenyang, capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning, said Liu Bainian (劉柏年), a vice-chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Pei, ordained a priest in 1992, was elected by fellow priests and Catholic representatives in Shenyang in February, garnering 80 percent of the vote, Liu said, adding that his election was endorsed by a college of more than 60 Chinese bishops in April. Pei is tipped to become the next bishop of Shenyang.

The Rome-based AsiaNews service quoted a Vatican source as saying Pei had the Pope's approval and was "an excellent candidate from all points of view." The Vatican was unavailable for comment.

Beijing and the Vatican severed ties after the 1949 Communist takeover in China and the subsequent crackdown on religion. There are some 10 million Catholics in China, divided between an "underground" church loyal to the Holy See and the state-approved church that respects the Pope as a spiritual figurehead but rejects real papal control.

In a move that threatened to undermine recent rapprochement efforts, China consecrated a bishop in Wuhu in the eastern province of Anhui and another in Kunming in the southwestern province of Yunnan in the past week, drawing unusually harsh criticism from the Holy See and Pope Benedict himself.

Liu defended Beijing's move, saying the consecration of bishops cannot wait until after the Vatican switched diplomatic relations to China from Taiwan.

"Without bishops, there can be no dioceses," Liu said. "Gospel spreading cannot wait until after the establishment of diplomatic relations."

Eighty-year-old Bishop Jin Pei-xian (金沛獻), vice president of the college of Chinese bishops, presided over Ma Yinglin's (馬英林) election as bishop of Kunming, Liu said, adding that Ma received 100 percent of the votes.

"Bishop Ma Yinglin publicly pledged his loyalty to the Pope and his love for his country at his consecration on April 30 ... but the final result due to political reasons was unfair," Liu said by telephone, referring to the Vatican's rejection and threat to excommunicate Ma.

"The Vatican did not give consideration to the history and current situation of Catholicism in China and made criticism of China's Catholic Church," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said in a statement on the official Xinhuanet Web site.

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