05/04/2006, 00.00
VATICAN - CHINA
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Holy See: illicit ordinations in China are a "serious violation of religious freedom"

A statement by Navarro speaks of the Pope's "profound distress", "pressures and threats" against bishops and priests, and recalls the "serious sanctions" foreseen by canon law.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The illicit episcopal ordinations that recently took place in China are "a serious violation of religious freedom", which have caused the Pope « great distress » and stand in the way of dialogue.  The Vatican takes a strong and anguished position on the ordinations, which took place on April 30 and May 3, of two bishops in China.

A statement by spokesman Joaquin Navarro stresses that priests and bishops were subjected to "heavy pressure and threats" by "entities outside the Church," effectively the Patriotic Association, so that they would take part in the ordinations which, in any case, call for "severe canonical sanctions," meaning excommunication.

The Holy See then speaks of the "tormented journey of the Catholic Church in China" and states that "despite being aware of certain peculiarities of this journey, it thought and hoped that such deplorable episodes were by now a thing of the past."  It also serves warning against other ordinations and repeats its availability for "honest and constructive dialogue with appropriate Chinese authorities."

"I am able," the Vatican statement, released in Italian, reads, "to make known the Holy See's position on the episcopal ordinations of priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, Sunday, last April 30, in Kunming (Yunnan province) and on the 2nd of the current month of May, in Wuhu (Anhui province).

"The Holy Father learned with profound distressed of the news, as such an important act for the life of the Church, as is an episcopal ordination, was carried out in both cases without respecting the needs of communion with the Pope.  It is a serious blow to the unity of the Church, which calls for, as is known, severe canonical sanctions (cf canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law).

"According to the information received, Bishops and priests were subjected – by entities outside the Church – to heavy pressure and threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, lacking pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, furthermore, contrary to their conscience.  Various Prelates opposed such pressures, while others could only suffer them with great interior suffering.  Episodes of this kind tear apart not only communities but consciences as well.

"We are therefore faced with a serious violation of religious freedom, even if efforts where made to make it appear that these two episcopal ordinations were dutiful acts for providing a Pastor to vacant dioceses.

"The Holy See is giving careful attention to the tormented journey of the Catholic Church in China and, despite being aware of certain peculiarities of this journey, thought and hoped that such deplorable episodes were by now a thing of the past.  It now considers it to be its precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the Catholic Church as a whole, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of Bishops and priests who see themselves forced against conscience to carry out and participate in episcopal ordinations, which neither the candidate nor the consecrating Bishop want to perform without having received pontifical mandate.

"If the news is true that other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same way, the Holy See repeats the need for respecting the freedom of the Church and the autonomy of its institutions from any kind of external interference, and strongly hopes, therefore, that such unacceptable acts of violent and inadmissible constriction are never repeated.

"The Holy See has, on various occasions, reaffirmed it availability for honest and constructive dialogue with appropriate Chinese Authorities for the purpose of finding solutions that satisfy the legitimate needs of both Parties.

"Not only do initiatives such as those indicated above not encourage such dialogue, but they create new obstacles to them."

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