China will continue to "self-elect and self-ordain" bishops despite Vatican calls to end the practice, said Anthony Liu Bainian, a vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).
"We ordain bishops only for the sake of evangelization in the mainland. Nobody can stop us," he told UCA News July 3. "Without the contribution of 'self-elected and self-ordained' bishops, the China church couldn't have achieved its development today,” he said.
The Pope's letter to Chinese Catholics, issued June 30, described the "self-elected and self-ordained bishops" in China as "validly ordained." But it said certain bishops among them "lack a pontifical mandate" and are to be considered "illegitimate."
Usually, the elected candidate for bishop applies to the Vatican for approval. However, in some cases the Vatican did not give approval and instead threatened excommunication.
"The fault lies not with China," Liu reasoned. Liu said it is up to Rome to recognize these bishops.
Liu said the CCPA intends to continue in its way as long as there are no advances in China-Vatican relations.
The Pope’s letter to Catholics in China includes two sections on the Chinese hierarchy and appointment of bishops. It reads: "the claim of some entities, desired by the state and extraneous to the structure of the church, to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine."
Liu disagrees with the letter's suggestion that the CCPA places itself above the bishops. He describes the CCPA and its branches in local dioceses as providing a bridge between the church and the government. "We help government officials to understand the church and its doctrines," he explained.
Each of the five government-recognized religions in China has its own patriotic association.