Another Chinese episcopal ordination without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to take place within the next week, further straining relations between the Holy See and China’s government.
Fr. Joseph Huang Binzhuang is to be ordained as bishop of Shantou diocese in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday July 14, the Asian Catholic news agency UCA News reported July 8.
Chinese authorities are reportedly pressuring the four other Catholic bishops in Guangdong to attend the ceremony.
The news comes only days after the Vatican warned Catholic churchmen that they could face excommunication for their participation in another illicit episcopal ordination in the Diocese of Leshan last month.
“Our bishop has expressed to the officials he is unwilling to go as the ordination is not approved by the Vatican and the consecrating bishops of the Leshan ordination are facing severe punishment,” one local source told UCA News.
“The officials told our bishop not to worry as the government will back him and he is not alone because several other bishops will also participate,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the northeast Diocese of Liaoning, priests have voted to block their Bishop, Paul Pei Junmin, from attending the Shantou bishop’s ordination.
China’s communist regime continues to try to control all aspects of Chinese life, including the Catholic Church. The Chinese government created and continues to run the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
In contrast, Canon 1382 of the Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law states that both a bishop who consecrates a person as Bishop “without a pontifical mandate,” and the one who is consecrated, “incur a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
To make matters worse for the Vatican, Shantou diocese already has a Vatican-appointed leader in the person of Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian. The Chinese authorities, though, only recognize him as a priest. The 81-year-old’s ministry has become restricted because he was injured in a car crash. He is also under surveillance by the authorities.
Bishop Zhuang has phoned and written to Fr. Huang to persuade him not to take part in next week’s illicit ordination but Fr. Huang has so far refused to meet him.
The bishop will “never submit to pressure but continue to preserve the Church’s principles and remain in communion with the Pope,” UCA News’ source said.
Fr. Joseph Huang was ordained to the priesthood in 1991 and has served as parish priest of St. Joseph’s Cathedral. On May 11 he won a diocesan “election” for the post of bishop. The process involved 70 representatives, including 20 priests, and was monitored by government officials. Chinese authorities have placed under surveillance some of those who refused to participate.
After several years of an apparent thaw in relations between the Holy See and China, recent events suggest that Beijing and Rome are still at loggerheads. Officials of the state-run Patriotic Catholic Association announced June 23 that they are now looking to ordain as many as 40 new bishops without Vatican approval.
If next week’s ordination goes ahead it will be the third illicit ordination in nine months, including one in Chendge diocese in November last year and one in Leshan last month.