Bishop Wu Qinjing of Zhouzi, whose episcopal ordination was approved by the Holy See but was not recognized by the Catholic Patriotic Association of China, has challenged Chinese officials by presiding publicly at a ceremony at the diocesan cathedral.
According to the South China Morning Post, Bishop Wu celebrated Mass vested as a priest, but he put on his biretta and ring when he appeared before the faithful for the blessing of a new cross at the Cathedral of Zhouzhi.
Bishop Wu was ordained by the former bishop of Xian, Anthony Li Duan, last October, but the act was not made public until last week.
"Bishop Wu would like to give the government time to acknowledge his legality within the needed process, but at the same time he does not want to compromise his religious belief," said a Catholic source quoted by the Chinese newspaper.
Bishop Wu’s actions highlighted the current friction between the Holy See and Beijing over the appointment of bishops. Recently, China appointed three bishops without the Pope’s blessing.
The newspaper reported that the Patriotic Catholic Association is preparing to ordain several more bishops without Vatican approval. “Many dioceses in China are without a bishop. We cannot wait for relations with the Vatican to improve in order to fill them,” said Liu Bainian, Vice president of the Association.
China has some 10 million Catholics, but they are split between an underground church loyal to the Holy See, and the state-approved church.