A Chinese bishop excommunicated by the Vatican yesterday attended an ordination ceremony, a move likely to anger the Holy See, which had asked that no “illegitimate” clergy take part in the rite.
The ordination of Luo Xuegang (羅雪剛) in Yibin, Sichuan Province, was approved by both China’s official church and the Vatican, which has been locked in a bitter struggle with Beijing over control of China’s Catholics.
However, the attendance of Lei Shiyin (雷世銀), the bishop of neighboring Leshan who was excommunicated in June after he was ordained without papal approval, is likely to anger the Vatican.
“The ordination started at nine this morning and lasted around two-and-a-half hours,” a priest from the Leshan diocese surnamed Tong said.
“Bishop Lei Shiyin attended the ceremony,” he said, adding Lei was only present in the congregation and did not take part in any religious rituals for Luo’s ordination.
The Vatican has been angered by several ordinations carried out by the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the official church, over the past year without papal approval.
The forced participation of a number of bishops at assemblies organized by the association has strained tensions further.
China’s Catholics are increasingly caught between showing allegiance to the association or to the pope as part of an “underground” Church considered illegal by Beijing.
While official statistics put the number of Catholics in China at 5.7 million, independent sources say it is closer to 12 million.
In May, the pope called on all bishops to “refuse to take the path of separation” in spite of “pressure” from Chinese authorities.
However, Beijing has ignored these appeals. In June, it announced that it would try to ordain at least 40 bishops “without delay.”
The Vatican has not had formal diplomatic ties with Beijing since 1951.