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China Ordains Another Catholic Bishop in Defiance of Vatican

  • Daniel Schearf

China has ordained a new Catholic bishop in defiance of the Vatican. The consecration, which was carried out by China's Patriotic Catholic Association without papal approval, indicates no progress has been made in improving relations between Beijing and the Holy See. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China Thursday ordained 36-year-old Wang Renlei as Catholic Bishop of Xuzhou, in China's eastern province of Jiangsu. The ordination contradicts Catholic Church doctrine, which stipulates that only the Vatican can appoint bishops.

The ordination is the third this year without Vatican approval, and indicates that normalized relations between Beijing and the Holy See are still a long way off.

Beijing and the Vatican severed ties in the 1950s, after the Chinese Communist Party took control of the country. The Vatican later established diplomatic relations with China's rival, Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said Thursday that Beijing is still sincere about improving relations with the Vatican, but she laid down conditions.

"The Chinese government's principle in handling China-Vatican relations is consistent," she said. "We have always adhered to two principles. The Vatican must sever so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and not interfere in China's internal affairs, including using religion to interfere in China's internal affairs."

In recent years, the two sides appeared to be moving towards normalizing relations, and had apparently reached an understanding that the Vatican would be allowed to approve Chinese bishops before the Chinese government appointed them.

That understanding was seriously undermined earlier this year when the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association appointed two bishops without Vatican approval.

The government organization says the ordinations are necessary, as China's Catholic Church is short of bishops.

However, analysts say China's Communist Party does not want any foreign organization having influence over its people.

China's official Catholic Church has some four million followers. Millions more are believed to be loyal to the Vatican.

Some worship in so-called underground churches independent of government control, and are subject to official persecution if they are discovered.

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