Vatican condemns excommunicated bishop's role in Chinese ordination
By Benjamin Mann
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.

.- Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has condemned excommunicated Chinese Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin's role in the Nov. 30 ordination of Vatican-approved Auxiliary Bishop Peter Luo Xuegang.

The head of the Holy See Press Office welcomed Bishop Xuegang's ordination in the Yibin diocese, but said the “participation of the illegitimate bishop, who – as is known – is in the canonical status of an excommunicated person,” causes “disagreement and confusion among the faithful.”

The Vatican spokesman said Dec. 1 that the situations was worsened by the fact that Bishop Shiyin “participated as a consecrating bishop and concelebrated the Eucharist.

“His repeated disobedience to the norms of the Church unfortunately aggravates his canonical position,” he added.

Fr. Lombardi had previously made it clear that “no illegitimate bishop” was to participate in the ordination liturgy, in accordance with Catholic norms. But Bishop Shiyin, who was cut off from the Church after being ordained without papal approval in June 2011, failed to heed the warning.

Ordinarily, he noted, “the presence of the Bishop Lei Shiyin should have been entirely excluded, and would entail canonical consequences for the other bishops attending.”

But Fr. Lombardi indicated that the legitimate bishops in attendance were in an unusual situation that would require further examination.

“In this circumstance it is likely that they were unable to prevent it without great inconvenience,” he said. “In any case, the Holy See will be able to better assess the question when it has received more extensive and in-depth information.”

Tight security arrangements surrounded Bishop Xuegang's Nov. 30 ordination. Local church sources told UCA News that police officers with dogs kept watch at St. Mary's Church, where participants in the ordination had to arrive three hours early to be searched for any phones, cameras, or liquids.

Yibin's 95-year-old Bishop John Chen Shizhong presided over the ceremony in the presence of 800 faithful and around 100 clergy and religious. Bishop Xuegang will assist him in serving around 30,000 Catholics in the city located in China's south-central Sichuan province.

Despite the illicit participation of Bishop Shiyin, Fr. Lombardi said Wednesday's ordination of a bishop in good standing with Rome was a welcome change from the recent past.

“After three recent episcopal ordinations without papal mandate,” Fr. Lombardi said, “the fact of having a new bishop in communion with the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world is certainly positive.”

“It will be appreciated not only by the Chinese bishops and faithful, but also by the universal Church.”

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