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Vatican disturbed by reports of unauthorised ordination in China


Vatican City : China risks jeopardising improving relations with the Vatican if clerics loyal to Pope Benedict XVI are forced to participate in the unilateral ordination of a bishop nominated by the Communist state-controlled church, the papal spokesman said Thursday.

Father Federico Lombardi was commenting on reports of the planned ordination of the bishop of Chengde, in China’s northeastern Hebei province that is apparently scheduled for Nov 20.

The alleged candidate, Father Joseph Guo Jincai, “has not received the approval of the Holy Father to be ordained as a bishop of the Catholic Church”, Lombardi said in a statement.

The Vatican was particularly “disturbed by reports from mainland China alleging that a number of bishops in communion with the Pope are being forced by government officials to attend an illicit episcopal ordination”.

“If these reports are true, then the Holy See would consider such actions as grave violations of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience,” Lombardi added.

“It would also consider such an ordination as illicit and damaging to the constructive relations that have been developing in recent times between the People’s Republic of China and the Holy See,” the papal spokesman said.

Beijing and the Vatican broke off ties in 1951 after the Holy See recognised the government of Taiwan, the island that China sees as its breakaway province.

Benedict was seen to have broken new ground in relations with Beijing when in June 2007 he sent a letter to Chinese Catholics expressing admiration for the Chinese people but also the need for greater religious freedom in China.

The Catholic Church in China is split into about five million members of the government-administered church, according to official statistics, and more than 10 million estimated members of the underground church, loyal to the Vatican.

Catholics in the underground church often face harassment from Chinese authorities.