Kunming (AsiaNews/SCMP) Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday ignored Vatican directives by attending a mass in Kunming celebrated by Ma Yinglin, a bishop ordained without the Holy See's approval.
Mr Tsang, who calls himself a "devout Roman Catholic", and his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, attended the service at Kunming's Sacred Heart Church performed by Bishop Ma, appointed by the Patriotic Association last month. Bishop Ma warmly welcomed Mr and Ms Tsang, introducing them to the congregation, amid rounds of applause.
The couple received Holy Communion from a priest co-celebrating the mass with Bishop Ma, before leaving the service to catch a train to Qujing city to attend the Pan Pearl River Delta forum.
Fr Lawrence Lee Len, chancellor of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, said the Holy See explicitly asked Catholics not to attend any religious services conducted by bishops not in communion with the Pope.
Speaking in general terms without referring to Mr Tsang, Father Lee said: "It cannot be helped if the person is ignorant, but if the person has knowledge about the bishop's background, then it was grossly inappropriate to participate in such illicit acts."
A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office said last night it was Mr Tsang's practice to go to church every day, even on mainland visits.
A 1988 Vatican directive sent to the church in Chinaknown as the "eight-point directive" and produced by then Prefect of the Propaganda Fide Card Josef Tomko, and still in forcewarned Catholics against attending services conducted by bishops and priests lacking Vatican approval.
The directive also asks Catholics to "look for faithful priests who are in communion with the Pope"" when receiving sacraments.
"Ma was not in full communion with the Pope" and what Tsang "has done was a great scandal, especially because of his position," an anonymous source said.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive "gave a very bad example to Catholics in mainland China and in Hong Kong. He cannot plead that he didn't know."