The Vatican says it expects to excommunicate two men who were ordained as Catholic Bishops in China this week without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The ordinations are a setback to what had appeared to be positive negotiations between Beijing and the Holy See.
A Vatican statement denounced China's ordinations this week as a "grave wound to the unity of the Church." It says that, under Canon Law, severe sanctions "are foreseen," and notes excommunication is automatic for ordinations without papal approval.
The Roman Catholic Church is expected to complete a formal investigation before a final announcement.
Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen earlier this week told VOA the ordinations were clearly illegitimate and coerced. He said those who took part in the ceremonies did so under threat from the Communist authorities.
"These ordained bishops were under pressure, (with) so many people of public security guarding them," he said. " It's a clear impression that they were not acting freely."
Catholics in China are only allowed to worship at government-approved churches.
The ordinations appear to be a severe setback to recent positive talks on normalizing relations between the Holy See and China. The main dispute is who can name bishops in the country.