- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican yesterday criticized China for ordaining another bishop without papal approval, calling it the latest in a “series of extremely grave acts” that caused Pope Benedict XVI “great sorrow.”

China’s government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association on Thursday ordained Wang Renlei, vicar-general of the Xuzhou diocese in Jiangsu province. It was the third known ordination in China this year, further aggravating tensions between Beijing and the Holy See.

“The Holy Father learned the news with great sorrow, because the episcopal ordination was conferred without the pontifical mandate” and thus violated Roman Catholic law, the Vatican press office said.

The Vatican said it had tried to take steps so “a new laceration in church communion” didn’t occur, without elaborating what those actions were.

“This series of extremely grave acts, which offend the religious sentiment of every Catholic in China and in the rest of the world, is fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church, which doesn’t correspond to Catholic doctrine and subverts fundamental principles of its hierarchal structure,” the statement read.

Beijing broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 after the communists took power and set up a separate Catholic church outside the authority of the Holy See.

The faithful in China are only allowed to worship with the state-sanctioned church, and Beijing views papal appointments there as an interference in its internal affairs.

China’s reluctance to yield to the Vatican on the ordination dispute has hindered efforts to resume diplomatic ties. Another stumbling block is the Holy See’s relations with China’s rival, Taiwan, although church officials have said they are considering breaking ties with the island.

When the two bishop ordinations were carried out earlier this year, the Vatican threatened to excommunicate the priests.

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, a critic of the communist government, said Friday that after those bishop appointments, Beijing had invited a Vatican delegation to the Chinese capital and promised to stop the practice. He accused Beijing of reneging on the deal.

Cardinal Zen also criticized the Chinese government for reportedly detaining two bishops recognized by the Vatican and forcing them to attend Mr. Wang’s ordination.

Despite the Vatican’s illegitimacy in China, millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and members of their congregations are frequently detained and harassed.

“It is consoling to note that … almost all the bishops, priests, other clergy and lay people in China … have maintained deep communion of faith and life with [the pope] and with all the Catholic communities throughout the world,” the Vatican said.

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