Rome (AsiaNews) An illicit episcopal ordination, i.e. without the Holy See's approval, will take place in the city of Xuzhou (in the Jiangsu region of eastern-central China) next November 30. It would seem that this new ordination puts an end to the "truce" established a few months ago between China and the Vatican.
Local sources of Xuzhou have confirmed to AsiaNews that on November 30 at 8 a.m., Fr Wang Renlei, Vicar General of the diocese, will be ordained bishop in a ceremony led by the diocese's current bishop, Monsignor Qian Yurong. This is one of the few bishops of the official Church who has not sought reconciliation with the Pope and is thus not in communion with the Holy See; he is well known for his pro-government positions. The episcopal candidate, Fr Wang, was ordained to the priesthood in 1996 and is known as an easy-going person who is very timid toward the government.
AsiaNews sources say that Wang was elected more than a week ago according to the "democratic method", in a meeting which took place in one of the city's hotels. The 8 priests of the diocese would have opted for a priest who is more determined and courageous in defending Church freedom, but "everything had already be decided beforehand by the officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau."
Yesterday, Sunday, during mass at the Cathedral, Catholics of Xuzhou were invited to the illicit ordination. All those who want to take part in the rite must register as room is limited to about 500 people.
Unverified rumours say that two other bishops will arrive "from Beijing" to take part in the ceremony. Also according to rumours, government authorities have promised to give the diocese 6 million yuan (about 600,000 euros) to cover costs for the ordination. This considerable sum enormous for a diocese of 20,000 members will perhaps be used for other expenses in the diocese.
Vatican figures are "dismayed" by the news, which risks becoming a fatal blow to dialogue between the Holy See and China.
Several months ago, the Patriotic Association and the Religious Affairs Bureau carried out a series of ordinations without the Holy See's permission. The Vatican harshly criticized the gesture as "a serious violation of religious freedom." The wave of international criticism against China's gesture and the visit of a Vatican delegation to Beijing last June seemed to have defused the crisis.
Vatican figures told AsiaNews that they hope the "ordination is cancelled. What interest can the Chinese government have in going through with this new gesture of offence against the Pope and the Church?"According to AsiaNews sources, the Patriotic Association is trying to ordain dozens of bishops without the approval of the Holy See, for the purpose of destroying all the work of reconciliation carried out so far between the Chinese Church and the Pope. More than 80% of Chinese bishops of the official Church are, at this point, reconciled with the Pope.