The hope for reconciliation between the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Vatican seems to be dimming as the government-run church claims that it will ordain new bishops to lead 40 vacant Chinese dioceses.
According to the China Daily, a senior CCPA says that out of China's 97 dioceses, 40 do not have bishops while another 30 are headed by elderly church officials.
Liu Bainian, the vice-president of the government church said, "Many of the current bishops are old, with 30 of them above 80 years old," and that “[w]e are in dire need of bishops."
Liu blamed the shortage on the Vatican's long-time opposition to China's practice of appointing its own bishops. He said the country could no longer wait for the decades-old
rift to heal before making new appointments.
"While Chinese Catholics want to select those with good religious knowledge and love toward the country and the people, the Vatican wants those who oppose the Communist Party," he said.
The appointing of bishops is one of the major sources of conflict between the Vatican and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which have been at odds since the Association was founded in 1957.
The government sees appointments by the Vatican as the Church meddling in their internal affairs, whereas the Church sees the issue from the exact opposite perspective. Liu commented, "Diplomatic factors should not be considered a precondition for religious affairs."
The threat of consecrating new bishops comes in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent attempts at reconciling the “underground” and “official” Chinese churches with his letter to the Church in China this past June.