Illicit ordination will be new step backwards, says Chinese archbishop
By David Kerr
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.- The ordination of another Chinese bishop without papal approval would be a “new step backwards” in relations between China and the Vatican, says Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“The government and Chinese politicians are convinced that the Church must be managed by the government,” the Hong Kong-born cleric told the Italian newspaper La Stampa on July 12.

Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai’s comments were made only two days before Father Joseph Huang Binzhuang is due to be illicitly ordained as the bishop of Shantou diocese in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday July 14.

The ordination will be the third without papal approval in nine months. Each has been organized by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is run by Beijing and does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope.

“Certainly, with the illegitimate ordinations of November 2010 and this past 29 June, the government took some steps backward, going back to the situation during the ‘50s,” said Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai.

“They wanted bishops ordained under the control of the government. This surprises me, as we have taken so many steps forward to bring us closer together.”

Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai says he believes that the Catholic Church has become an indirect casualty of internal communist party politics.

“Within the Politburo, the top leaders are all doing their jobs. There are still 18 months before some big changes happen in China. Hu Jintao, President and Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, must be replaced. So to save themselves, everyone tries to be as leftward-leaning as possible, taking an ever-more intransigent position. It is a subtle form of electoral campaigning.”

Today’s interview comes only a week after the Vatican warned Catholic bishops who participated in another illicit episcopal ordination in the Diocese of Leshan in June that they could be facing excommunication.

Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai explained that some of the bishops involved have already written to Rome to explain “the pressure they were under” or that they “were forced to do it.” Others, however, “have returned to their dioceses as if nothing happened,” thus “creating disturbances among the faithful.” For both, he says, penance is now required.

“They must apologize to the people of God, offering a day of prayer and penitence in their diocese. This way they can recover their credibility and so continue to govern their diocese.”

Canon 1382 of the Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law states both a bishop who “without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person as Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”

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