Here is the statement issued today by Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, in regard to the recent episcopal ordinations in China."... for which severe canonical sanctions ... are foreseen." Not quite excommunication, yet. Read the comments over at Amy's as well. According to Asianews, most Chinese Catholics welcome this clarification from the Vatican.
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I can inform you of the position of the Holy See regarding the episcopal ordination of the priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, last Sunday, April 30, in Kunming (province of Yunnan) and Wednesday, May 3, in Wuhu (province of Anhui).
The Holy Father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the Church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the Pope.
It is a grave wound to the unity of the Church, for which severe canonical sanctions, as it is known, are foreseen (cf. Canon 1382 from the Code of Canon Law).
According to the information received, bishops and priests have been subjected to -- on the part of entities external to the Church -- strong pressures and to threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience.
Various prelates have refused to give in to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind produce lacerations not only in the Catholic community but also in the internal conscience itself.
We are therefore facing a grave violation of religious liberty, notwithstanding that it is sought to present the two episcopal ordinations as a proper act to provide the pastors for vacant dioceses.
The Holy See follows with attention the troubled path of the Catholic Church in China and, even aware of some particularities of such a path, believed and hoped that similar, deplorable episodes by now would belong to the past.
She considers that now it is her precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the entire Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of those bishops and priests who were seen obligated, against conscience, to take part or to participate in the episcopal ordination, which neither the candidates nor the consecrating bishops want to carry out without having received the pontifical mandate.
If the news is true that other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same manner, the Holy See would like to underline the need for respect for the liberty of the Church and for the autonomy of its institutions from whatever external interference, and sincerely wishes that such unacceptable acts of violence and inadmissible constrictions are not repeated.
The Holy See has, on various occasions, stressed her willingness for honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities for the purpose of finding a solution that would satisfy the needs of both parties. Initiatives such as the above-mentioned do not favor such dialogue but instead create new obstacles against it.
[Translation of Italian original by the Vatican Information Service; adapted]
“This statement was necessary,” a priest in Shaanxi province told AsiaNews. “These ordinations are illegal and a great obstacle to relations between China and the Vatican. But they are above all a factor of division with the Catholic Church. The Church finds itself back to a time, many years ago, when patriotism and loyalty to the Communist Party prevailed over ties to the Pope.”
“If the Pope did not speak up, the official Church was in danger of being swallowed up lock, stock and barrel by the Patriotic Association (PA), changing the very nature of the Catholic Church,” he said. “The true Church always obeys the Pope.” And “if it is true that the PA has another 20 illegal ordinations planned, we can say goodbye to at least 30 years of the Catholic Church in China.”
For a Beijing priest involved in pastoral work, the Patriotic Association and its deputy chairman Anthony Liu Bainian are all to blame for these ordinations. “The PA is doing everything to railroad any positive development in China-Vatican relations,” he said.