05/03/2006, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN
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New bishop ordained in Anhui without Pope's permission

The Vatican sent a message to the candidate asking him to not go ahead.

Rome (AsiaNews) – "It gives great sorrow to see the Holy Father offended in this way": this is how a Chinese Catholic of Bengbu commented on the illegal ordination of the new bishop of the Diocese of Anhui.  Lui Xinhong, a priest from the region, was ordained bishop in the Church of Wuhu without the Holy See's approval, in a ceremony that lasted at least an hour and a half.  The principal ordaining bishop was Monsignor Wu Shizhen of Nanchang (Jiangxi).  Four other bishops concelebrated: Joseph Li Mingshu of Qingdao; Zhao Fengchang of Linqing and Zhang Xianwang of Jinan; and Ma Shuixeng of Zhoucun.

According to AsiaNews sources, the Vatican made a final attempt to stop the ordination by sending a personal message to Father Liu asking him to not submit himself to the ordination.  This is the second illegal ordination in less than a week, after the one that took place in Kunming last April 30.  These two ordinations, and those – at least 20 – that will come in the near future, were scheduled by Anthony Liu Bainian, Vice-President of the Patriotic Association, the organization that controls the Church and that has among its aims to foster a nationalistic Church independent of Rome.

Over recent years, Beijing and Rome had arrived at a working agreement by which the Vatican had the last word on candidates for the episcopacy.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong stated the ambiguous behaviour of Beijing "is destroying any trust" and is putting a halt to initial steps to dialogue between China and the Vatican.

Fr Gianni Criveller, a P.I.ME. missionary in Hong Kong says that "what is happening these days is like reliving the days of the illegal ordinations in 2000.  Even then there was talk on diplomatic relations and even then the Patriotic Association wanted the illegal ordinations in order to sabotage the signalling of dialogue between China and the Holy See.

This series of planned ordinations is a full-blown show of force on the part of the Patriotic Association which is trying to destroy rapprochement between Beijing and the Holy See.  In case of diplomatic relations, both the government and the Vatican want to do without the Patriotic Association.  The trend in the Beijing government is to detach itself more and more from the Stalinist and asphyxiating mentality of the Patriotic Association: in many regions the tension that exists between Patriotic Association officials and the faithful, both underground and official, is such that it could jeopardize plans for a "harmonious society" and being close to the people that Hu Jintao is pursuing.

On the part of the Vatican, as well as the official and underground Church, the idea is advancing that it could be acceptable for communities and bishops to sign up with the governmental Religious Affairs Bureau, without however adhering to the Patriotic Association, which is working for a national Church independent of Rome.

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