Two excommunicated illicit bishops in China have ordained priests in separate ceremonies during the past two months.
Catholic leaders expressed concern over the ordinations, saying it was yet another example of the Communist government tightening its control over the Church.
Father Joseph Yue Fusheng of Heilongjiang, who was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2012, ordained three priests in an Aug. 6 Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Harbin. The ceremony was concelebrated by 31 priests and attended by about 500 Catholics.
On June 29, Father Lei Shiyin, an illicit bishop excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011, ordained a new priest and presided over the vow-taking ceremony for two nuns during a ceremony in the newly built Sacred Heart Cathedral in Leshan city.
Security was tight in Harbin; participants needed an official pass to enter the church, according to a local witness.
Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, the only Vatican-approved bishop in Heilongjiang province, told ucanews.com that “whoever consecrates or is being consecrated, their status is grave”.
“Yue Fusheng is an illicit bishop that the Holy See openly declared excommunicated. Whoever agreed to be ordained by him has ignored Yue’s illegitimacy and openly disobeys the Holy See,” the bishop said.
Another Catholic leader who spoke on condition of anonymity also said the young priests who defied the Vatican are putting themselves in a grave position. “The faithful will not accept them. I wonder what their future will be,” he said.
“If similar incidents continue to happen, I also would suspect the government of increasing its control on the Church, turning the Church into a tool of the state to fulfill its political agenda,” he said.
At the June 29 Mass, Fr. Lei was joined by 18 concelebrants and more than 1,000 Catholics, including government officials.
“I have no intention to challenge the authority of the Holy See. I would not engage in any argument. But the China Church has to pursue inculturation,” Fr. Lei told ucanews.com.
“If we mind every word that people say, it would hinder the development of our diocese,” he added.
The Vatican has excommunicated three of the eight illicit bishops in China.
This was the second ordination Mass presided by Fr. Lei since being excommunicated. He ordained four new priests on June 29, 2012, the first anniversary of his illicit ordination.