.- Chinaâs state-backed Patriotic Catholic Association will ordain more bishops without papal approval when âconditions are right,â a top leader in the organization said.
Bishop Joseph Guoa Jincai of Chengde, vice-chairman of the group, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that local churches are preparing for the ordinations of bishops in seven dioceses.
He did not provide a schedule for the ordinations, saying preliminary work is âcomplicatedâ and involves various parties. Candidates must submit applications to the local commission of religious affairs for approval, while bishops from other dioceses have to coordinate schedules.
Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang was illicitly ordained as bishop of Shantou in Chinaâs southern Guangdong province on July 14.
In response, the Vatican declared that he incurred an automatic excommunication and lacks authority to govern the diocese.
Vatican expert Sandro Magister said Church authorities have âprudentlyâ indicated that only the newly ordained have definitely incurred excommunication.
âFor the consecrating bishops, they are suspending judgment until they ascertain whether they acted freely or under constraint,â Magister said in his July 24 column on his website âChiesa.â
However, the participating bishops are presumed to be culpable, and they too will not be able to exercise their episcopal ministry until they prove they acted under compulsion. Priests and faithful will have to avoid receiving the sacraments administered by them, he wrote.
Magister characterized the dispute as centered upon whether bishops are united to the successor of Peter or are created to act as officials of the Chinese government.
Bishop Huang Bingzhangâs ordination was the third illicit ceremony in nine months.
Anthony Lam, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, told the BBC News that the bishops ordained without papal approval had no credibility within the diocese and were unable to work effectively.
The government âinterferesâ and wants bishop candidates to be âlimited to their preference.â
The consecration of these bishops is âharmful and painful to the Catholic Church,â Lam added.
The Chinese government has said there are about 40 dioceses in need of new bishops and they have pledged to appoint bishops with or without papal approval.