Monday, May 01, 2006

Father Ma, welcome to episcopal la-la land

Essentially, Father Ma got ordained despite all the hesitation by Chinese Catholics and Father Ma himself. This ordination flew in the face of the wishes of the Holy See. Statements in support of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association by the PRC foreign ministry seem to cast some doubt on the theory that this is simply CPA officials trying to retain their power base (see the final news excerpt for that theory). Still, I don't think that the senior communist leadership can be seriously supporting this. The People's Republic is schizophrenic, but it's not that schizophrenic to have spent the last year courting the Holy See but to now decide to sabotage such courting.

Let's pray for illict Bishop Ma and the other bishops who participated who have now excommunicated themselves.

Various news stories:

China defies Vatican, ordains bishop | Catholic World News

Liu Bainian, the vice-president of the Patriotic Association, has been particularly aggressive in promoting the role of the government-backed group, and denouncing any "foreign influence" from the Holy See. After the April 30 ceremony he told reporters that the Vatican's view on the ordination was irrelevant, since "the Vatican and China don't have diplomatic relations."

China's foreign ministry, in a public statement released after the ceremony, claimed that public support for the episcopal ordination was "unanimous," and Vatican objections were "groundless."

China defies Pope by ordaining bishop | Financial Times

In the days preceding Father Ma’s ordination, there was intense jockeying behind the scenes as both the CPA and the Vatican lobbied other Chinese bishops. According to church sources, the CPA originally asked Bishop Jin Peixian of Shenyang to preside at Father Ma’s consecration, but he withdrew.

Bishop Dong Guangqing of Hankou, in Hubei province, was recruited to replace Bishop Jin as lead-celebrant. Co-celebrants at Sunday’s ceremony included Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi, in Shandong province.

Illustrating the complex overlap between China’s official and underground churches, both Bishop Dong and Bishop Fang are recognised by the Vatican. They now face excommunication for presiding over what the Holy See regards to be an illicit consecration, unless Pope Benedict XVI deems that they were forced to participate against their will. “It will be up to the Pope to decide [their fates],” a church source said. “They were all put under immense pressure by the CPA to do this.”

There are only about a dozen priests working in Yunnan and many of the Catholics there are members of the province’s minority communities. The area was last administered by a French bishop before China’s communist revolution. The CPA attempted to install another bishop in the 1980s, but his flock rioted and drove him out of the cathedral.

Card. Zen: “Suspend ordination of Kunming bishop” | Asia News

This new ordination would create many new problems for the Church and the government of China. The first is the ecclesial position of the candidate who is automatically outside ecclesial communion (latae sentientiae excommunication). Nowadays, Chinese Catholics reject a bishop if he is not approved by the Vatican and do not take part in his functions, preferring to swell the ranks of the underground Church.

Plus, such a challenge by the PA shines a bad light on the government, which thus appears to be driven by mid-level authorities and their anti-Holy See expressions, while top officials - at least over this last year - have been engaging in signs of détente and dialogue with the Vatican.

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