Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The appointment of bishops is not a political but religious matter." For this reason, every episcopal ordination should take place by papal mandate. Without it there is the no Catholic Church, and "divisions, wounds and tensions are created within the Catholic community in China." So says a note from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples issued today following reports that an illicit episcopal ordination will take place in the city of Harbin on July 6.
The ordination originally to have been held on 29 June did not go ahead, raising hopes it would be canceled. But today growing reports seem to confirm that the ordination will go ahead, however, even though - according to Chinese sources - the government is struggling to find the bishops who are willing to consecrate the candidate.
The Vatican Note states that the candidate, Fr. Yue Fusheng, was warned by the Holy See that he does not have papal approval and therefore, if he agrees to be ordained, he risks excommunication latae sententiae, as well as all participating bishops.
Here is the text of the Note:
Note of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Apostolic Administration of Harbin (PRC)
The Apostolic administration of Harbin (Heilongjiang Province) is preparing for the ordination of Rev. Joseph Yue Fusheng. In regard to this, please note the following.
1) An episcopal ordination, like the present, without papal mandate is directly opposed to the Office, granted to Peter by the Lord himself and his successors as Head of the College of Bishops, Vicars of Christ and pastors of the Church Universal and damages the unity of the Church and the whole work of evangelization. As written by Holy Father Benedict XVI in his Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated People and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in China (May 27, 2007, n. 9), "it is understandable that governmental authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will carry out the important role of leading and shepherding the local Catholic communities, given the social implications which - in China as in the rest of the world - this function has in the civil sphere. " But we must remember that "on the other hand, the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of hierarchical communion. For this reason the Code of Canon Law (cf. c. 1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline.
The Pope, continues the Letter - when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop, exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a State and offending against its sovereignty." Furthermore, the Holy Father adds, " The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is understood, also in international documents, as a constitutive element of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom."
The appointment of Bishops is a religious matter not political.
2) This episcopal ordination of Harbin will create confusion and divisions among the Catholic community in China. The Catholic community in Harbin does not want an unlawful episcopal ordination. The survival and development of the Church can only be done in union with the Roman Pontiff to Whom is entrusted the Church herself, and not without His consent, as happens with ordinations that, such as this, have no Papal mandate. If one wants the Church in China to be Catholic, one must not proceed episcopal ordinations that do not have the prior approval of the Holy Father.
3) Rev. Yue Fusheng was informed that he does not have papal approval: his ordination is unlawful, he will lack the authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See will not recognize him as the Bishop of Harbin. For his possible illegitimate ordination he will be subjected to the effects of the penalty incurred for violation of the norm of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law (cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of June 6, 2011) .
4) The consecrating Bishops are exposing themselves to serious canonical penalties prescribed by the law of the Church (in particular by canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law).
5) The government Authorities were informed that the ordination of Rev. Yue Fusheng is without the approval of the Holy Father. It would contradict those signs of dialogue advocated by the Chinese Party and the Holy See.
From the Vatican, July 3, 2012