Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Patriotic Association criticizes, and the Chinese Bishops' Council responds, to the note from the Holy See on the illicit ordination of Fr. Yue Fusheng, of Harbin. In a statement released today, the Chinese authorities underlined how the Vatican document "is not conducive to the unity and communion, or to the healthy development of the Church in China". In contrast to the hostile declarations published on July 4 by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), the PA's statement used a more moderate tone and words, and refrained from mentioning the word "excommunication".
Church sources in China described the Patriotic body's statement as "specious" and "confusing readers". The statement gives an account of Yue's good performance in the priesthood, underlining that he had already been selected as an Episcopal candidate in 1999 and re-proposed on May 16.
In its note, the Holy See affirmed instead that Fr. Yue had been informed that "he could not be approved by the Holy Father as an episcopal candidate. On several occasions he had been asked not to accept episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate". According to the sources, this has nothing to do with his dedication to pastoral work or considerations about him as a possible episcopal candidate.
Certain bishops who participated in the illicit ordination of Harbin expressed sadness and pain. "The faithful in the official Church of Harbin feel pain and disappointment in having a weak leader, excommunicated by the Vatican".
In its release, the Patriotic body affirms that a diocese without a bishop seriously hinder the development of the Church, and the bishops' council will do everything it can to train and select bishop candidates, and guide them along the election and ordination process. However, sources say the Patriotic Association's aim in saying this is only to confuse the faithful, and state that the selection of a bishop must be the most important thing, even if the diocese may have to be vacant. "A good bishop", they stated, "should be ready to stand up for the Church and its followers".
The last point in the document from the SARA affirms that the bishops in China enjoy the same respect and status as in the universal Church. But sources said the prelates are such "only if they are approved by the Pope and defend the principle of the Church - one, holy, Catholic and apostolic".