Fr Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained bishop illicitly on July 14.

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican says a Chinese bishop ordained illegitimately in mid-July has been automatically excommunicated and lacks the authority to govern his diocese.

At the same time, the Vatican praised bishops loyal to Rome who resisted participation in the ordination ceremony before being forced by authorities to do so.

“The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the Church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible,” said a July 16 Vatican statement.

The Vatican was reacting to the ordination of Fr Joseph Huang Bingzhang on July 14 at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou, in southern China’s Guangdong province.

Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyin, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was reportedly the main celebrant. He was one of eight Vatican-approved bishops at the ordination.

It was the second ordination of a Chinese bishop without papal mandate within a month.

On June 29, Fr Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained Bishop of Leshan in the presence of about 1,000 guests and government officials at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Emeishan.

The Vatican has expressed deepening concern and emphasised that willing participants in such ordinations face severe penalties under Church law, including automatic excommunication for the ordained bishop and the consecrating bishops.

In the latest case, the Vatican said, Fr Huang “had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the Diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop”.

The Vatican statement said officials in Rome had learned that some Chinese bishops, when contacted by civil authorities, were unwilling to participate in the ordination and had offered “various forms of resistance” before being obliged to take part.

“With regard to this resistance, it should be noted that it is meritorious before God and calls for appreciation on the part of the whole Church. Equal appreciation is also due to those priests, consecrated persons and members of the faithful who have defended their pastors, accompanying them by their prayers at this difficult time and sharing in their deep suffering,” the Vatican said.

The Asian Church news agency UCA News reported that some bishops were accompanied to the ordination by government officials.

Church sources said many of the diocesan priests went into hiding days before the ordination, but that some were found by government officials and made to attend the ceremony. - CNS

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