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VATICAN-CHINA Jul-5-2011 (330 words) With photo posted June 30. xxxi

Vatican condemns illegitimate ordination of bishop in China

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has condemned the latest ordination of a Chinese bishop without papal approval, saying the prelate has no right to govern the diocese.

The statement also warned that the penalty of excommunication may apply not only to the ordained bishop but also to the consecrating bishops who were involved.

Father Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained without a papal mandate June 29 as bishop of Leshan, in the presence of about 1,000 guests and government officials at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Emeishan.

Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was the main celebrant. The six other bishops who laid hands on Bishop Lei had all been ordained with Vatican approval.

Speaking to reporters July 4, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the language of the Vatican communique left little doubt that Bishop Lei had incurred excommunication, as foreseen by canon law. The Vatican has said consecrating bishops face the same penalty, but that extenuating circumstances may apply -- for example, if the bishops are coerced to participate.

The Vatican said Bishop Lei "had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons."

It said the ordination was a wound to church unity and had "deeply saddened" Pope Benedict XVI, who desires communion for the church in China.

"An episcopal ordination without papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the supreme pontiff and damages the unity of the church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and, unfortunately, produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China," it said.

The statement said the survival and development of the church in China can only take place in union with the pope "and not without his consent."

"If it is desired that the church in China be Catholic, the church's doctrine and discipline must be respected," it said.


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