China ordains Vatican-approved bishop over weekend

China ordains Vatican-approved bishop over weekend

.- Another Catholic bishop was ordained in China Sunday — the third in eight days— in a ceremony that was approved by the Vatican, unlike the controversial first two, which, the Vatican said could result in a series of excommunications.

The local cathedral was packed for the ordination of the new auxiliary bishop, Pei Junmin, 36, who was trained in Philadelphia. Several U.S. and other foreign guests also attended. During the ceremony, part of the decree from the Pope approving the consecration was read in Latin, reported the New York Times.

The ordination of a new auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Shenyang came three days after Pope Benedict XVI sharply rebuked China for consecrating two bishops in the past eight days without Vatican approval.

China responded over the weekend by describing the Pope's criticism as "unfounded" and defending the ordinations as within the bounds of the government, reported the Times.

While Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement that the Chinese government “is always sincere and has made unremitting efforts in improving its ties with the Vatican,” others in the Church believe the actions are a huge step backward in reconciliation between China and the Vatican. Diplomatic ties were broken 55 years ago.

While Pope Benedict has made normalization of relations a priority, the issue of appointing bishops has become a major stumbling block.

For several years, an understanding has existed between the Vatican and Beijing under which candidates for bishops have been vetted by both sides. Since 2004, at least five bishops have been approved with such consent.

Fr. Benoit Vermander, an expert on China-Vatican relations at the Ricci Institute, a Jesuit-led organization in Taipei, Taiwan, told the Times that the recent happenings were indicative of some internal disunity within Chinese policymaking.