Pope Benedict excommunicates 2 Chinese bishops
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Pope Benedict XVI on May 4 excommunicated two Chinese bishops who were ordained without his approval.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Roman Catholic Church's canon law states that in such a case excommunication is automatic, and that the ordinations hurt the chances for re-establishing closer relations with the China.
The two bishops had been ordained by China’s state-approved Catholic Church in what the Vatican called a “grave violation of religious freedom” that would hinder dialogue with Beijing.
Navarro-Valls said Pope Benedict XVI was deeply saddened at the news of the ordinations. “The holy father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the pope,” he said in the statement released by the Vatican Information Service.
“It is a grave wound to the unity of the church.” The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association ordained Father Liu Xinhong as bishop of Wuhu in the eastern province of Anhui on May 3. Three days earlier, April 30, Father Ma Yinglin was ordained by China’s official church on April 30.
The statement said Vatican officials had received information that “bishops and priests have been subjected to - on the part of external entities to the church – strong pressures and to threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience. Various prelates have given a refusal to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering.”
“We are therefore facing a grave violation of religious liberty,” Navarro-Valls said.
The ordinations come as China and the Holy See try to re-establish ties that ended after communists took control of China in 1949.
But the Vatican said that, while willing to continue discussions with the Chinese government, the ordinations hurt the chances for dialogue. “The Holy See has in various occasions reiterated its willingness to have an honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities to find solutions that would satisfy the legitimate requirements of both sides,” Navarro-Valls said.
“Initiatives such as those mentioned above not only don’t favor this dialogue, but instead create new obstacles against it,” he added.
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The following is the Vatican statement that was released May 4 by Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office:
"I can inform you of the position of the Holy See regarding the episcopal ordination of the priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, last Sunday, April 30, in Kunming (province of Yunnan) and Wednesday, May 3, in Wuhu (province of Anhui).
“The holy father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the pope.
“It is a grave wound to the unity of the church, for which severe canonical sanctions, as it is known, are foreseen (cfr. canon 1382 from the Code of Canon Law).
“According to the information received, bishops and priests have been subjected to - on the part of external entities to the church – strong pressures and to threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience. Various prelates have given a refusal to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind produce lacerations not only in the Catholic community but also in the internal conscience itself.
“We are therefore facing a grave violation of religious liberty, notwithstanding that it is sought to present the two episcopal ordinations as a proper act to provide the pastors for vacant dioceses.
“The Holy See follows with attention the troubled path of the Catholic Church in China and even aware of some particularities of such a path, believed and hoped that similar, deplorable episodes by now would belong to the past.
“She considers that now it is her precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the entire Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of those bishops and priests who were seen obligated, against conscience, to take part or to participate in the episcopal ordination, of which, neither the candidates or the consecrating bishops want to carry out without having received the pontifical mandate.
“If the news is true that other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same manner, the Holy See would like to underline the need for respect for the liberty of the church and for the autonomy of its institutions from whatever external interference, and sincerely wishes that such unacceptable acts of violence and inadmissible constrictions are not repeated.
“The Holy See has, on various occasions, stressed her willingness for honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities for the purpose of finding a solution that would satisfy the needs of both parties.
“Initiatives such as the above mentioned do not favor such dialogue but instead create new obstacles against it."
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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