VATICAN CITY (RNS) In its latest move in a long-running power struggle with the Vatican, China’s state-run Catholic church ordained another bishop without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.
The Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained as bishop of Shantou on Thursday (July 14). According to the Vatican-affiliated Asia News service, the eight bishops who ordained him included the president of the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
The ceremony came one day after the retired archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, took out an advertisement in a local newspaper to protest Huang’s ordination. According to The Associated Press, Zen appealed to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to restrain “rogue public servants” who are “using violence to assist scum inside the church to force bishops, priests and followers to do things against their consciences.”
For more than half a century, China’s 12 million to 15 million Catholics have been divided between the CPCA and an “underground” church of Catholics loyal to the pope.
In recent years, the Vatican and Beijing have tacitly agreed on a number of bishops acceptable to both sides. For example, all eight bishops who celebrated Thursday’s ordination had been approved by both the Vatican and the CPCA.
A CPCA spokesman said last month that the state-run church planned to ordain more than 40 new bishops “without delay,” a week before it ordained Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin as bishop of Leshan. The Vatican announced a few days later that Lei had been automatically excommunicated as a result.
According to a recent Vatican document, all bishops who consecrate other bishops without a papal mandate incur automatic excommunication, as do the men they consecrate, unless they were “coerced” to participate in the ceremony.