By David Kerr
The Vatican has responded with dismay to the news that China has ordained another Catholic bishop without papal approval.
“This is not good news. The position of the Holy See on this matter has been made clear in recent months. These ordinations are very negative for the unity of the Church,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi S.J. to CNA July 14.
His comments come only hours after the illicit ordination of Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop of Shantou in China’s southern Guangdong province.
According to UCA News, the ceremony which took place in Shantou City’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral before an estimated congregation of 1,000. Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyin, the president of the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was the main celebrant.
Meanwhile Reuters news agency reports that eight bishops loyal to Rome participated in the ceremony.
“All eight bishops were requested by civil authorities to go and ordain the new illicit bishop,” said “a source close to the Vatican” to Reuters July 14.
“All of them were accompanied by the police to the place of the event. The majority of the bishops refused and resisted to go.”
Today’s ceremony is the third illicit ordination in nine months following one in Chendge diocese in November last year and another in Leshan last month. Ten days ago the Vatican excommunicated Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin, who was illicitly ordained as bishop of Leshan. They also warned other Catholic clerics who participated in the ordination that they also could be facing excommunication.
The backdrop to all these events is the continuing attempt by China’s communist regime to control all aspects of Chinese life, including the Catholic Church. The Chinese government created and continues to run the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
Canon 1382 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states both a bishop who “without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person as Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
To make matters worse for the Vatican, Shantou diocese already has a Vatican-appointed leader in the person of Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian. UCA reported that he was watched July 14 by dozens of plainclothes officers at his rural church.
“Before Father Huang repents wholeheartedly, we will not have any contact in sacraments as he chose not to be in communion with the pope,” said a UCA source quoting the 81-year-old Bishop Zhuang.
He says he will not recognize Fr. Huang as a bishop and has called on the faithful to recite the rosaries for God’s help to overcome the difficulties.
Fr. Joseph Huang was born in 1967 and was ordained to the priesthood 1991. UCA reported that he has been a deputy of the National People’s Congress – China’s parliament – since 1998 and is presently a vice-chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.