Two episcopal ordinations, one without papal approval, scheduled for this week have been postponed, say Church sources. But the ordination of four new priests by an illicit bishop has gone ahead in southwestern Leshan diocese.
Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan ordained the four new priests Friday, the first anniversary of his own ordination which was conducted without a papal mandate and resulted in his automatic excommunication.
The ceremony also fell on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, one of the most important feast days of the Catholic Church which venerates the martyrdom in Rome of the two great apostles.
According to local Church sources, five deacons were supposed to be ordained in Leshan but one refused to receive ordination from the excommunicated bishop.
The other four deacons agreed to be ordained after the diocese allegedly promised them a car and money worth an estimated 150,000 yuan (US$23,600), the sources said.
Elsewhere, episcopal ordinations in Harbin and Shanghai, which were scheduled to take place this week, have been postponed.
Both bishop candidates, Fathers Joseph Yue Fusheng and Thaddeus Ma Daqin, belong to the government-sanctioned “open” Church community and hold posts in the local and national Catholic Patriotic Associations.
The reasons for the postponements are not clear to most Catholics in the two dioceses, but sources said the ordinations will go ahead no later than mid-July.
Researchers who asked not to be named suggested that authorities have delayed the ordinations to avoid more protests in Hong Kong, where pressure has been mounting, during President Hu Jintao’s three-day visit that began today.
Fr Yue had been warned by the Holy See not to receive ordination in Harbin, as he does not have a papal mandate. But the sources say they believe Chinese authorities will press ahead with the ordination.
In Shanghai the ordination of Fr Ma, who is approved by the pope will include the participation of an illegitimate bishop at the behest of the government, according to the sources.
Illegitimate bishops were also present at two other ordinations of Vatican-approved bishops in Changsha and Nanchong this year.