On the day that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association illegitimately ordained a new bishop, a delegation from the institution met with the secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, Archbishop Leonardo Steiner.
The 12 Chinese officials were in Brazil “to learn about the work of the Catholic Church” in that country and to “propose a dialogue between the two episcopal conferences,” according to a statement about the July 14 meeting. The document appeared briefly on the Brazilian bishop conference's website, but it was later removed.
The delegation was led by China’s Vice Minister of Religious Affairs, Jiang Jianyong, who oversees the activities of the government-backed Patriotic Association.
In a 2007 article on Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Catholics in China, the Italian magazine 30 Giorni explained that the Vatican does not recognize the existence of a Chinese bishops' conference because that would imply recognition of every illicit episcopal ordination that has taken place since the Communists rose to power in 1951 and severed relations with the Holy See.
The statement posted on the Brazilian bishops’ website said that during the meeting, “Archbishop Leonardo discussed the work of the Church in Brazil, explaining its structure and operations, the special care devoted to the poor, the relationship between the episcopal conferences of Latin America, the general directives of the Church’s work of evangelization in Brazil and the work of men’s and women’s religious communities, especially in social ministry.”
The statement quoted Vice Minister Jiang Jianyong as saying this was “this first time a delegation has visited South America and that they were invited to come by the Biblical Society of Brazil.”
The Biblical Society of Brazil is not part of the Brazilian bishops’ conference. It is currently led by a retired Presbyterian pastor.
Jianyong said the Chinese officials were interested in “learning about the characteristics of Catholicism in Brazil, and we have witnessed the relevance of the Church for the country.”
On July 16, two days after the meeting between Chinese officials and the representative of the bishops' conference of Brazil, the Vatican issued a statement announcing that Fr. Giuseppe Huang Bingzhang incurred excommunication when he was ordained a bishop on July 14 without the Pope’s authorization.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the illicit ordination a “sad and troubling” development for the universal Church.
“The Holy See does not recognize him as bishop of the diocese of Shantou, and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of the diocese,” the Vatican statement said.
“Fr. Huang Bingzhang had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop; Fr. Huang had been asked on numerous occasions not to accept episcopal ordination,” the Holy See noted.
On July 4, the Vatican also issued a statement announcing that Fr. Ley Shiyin, who has a daughter, also incurred excommunication after being illegitimately ordained on June 29 in the city of Leshan.
It said Fr. Shiyin, “ordained without the papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan.”
China does not recognize the Catholic Church’s authority to appoint bishops and allows Catholics to practice their faith only by belonging to the government-backed Patriotic Association.