THURSDAY
January 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 4

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NEWS & VIEWS         Acknowledgments
    Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

BEIJING STEPS UP PRESSURE ON CATHOLIC CHURCH

China tightens security for ordinations

    BEIJING (FIDES/CWNews.com) -- The government-approved Patriotic Catholic Association in China will ordain 5 new bishops-- rather than 3, as originally announced-- on January 6, according to information received by the FIDES news agency. The ordinations have not been authorized by the Vatican.

    On January 4, Anthony Liu Bainian, the secretary general of the Catholic Patriotic Association, had announced that 3 priests would be ordained as bishops in Nantang, the Church of the South, in Beijing. But just one day later, the Patriotic Church indicated that 5 episcopal ordinations would take place.

    The sudden shift in plans was seen by FIDES sources as evidence that the Beijing government is putting pressure on the Patriotic Church.

    The Chinese government had originally planned a "mass ordination" of 12 new bishops for the Patriotic Church, to take place on January 6. That plan was a direct slap at Pope John Paul II, who will ordain 12 new bishops himself on the same day in St. Peter's Basilica.

    However, because the ordination was clearly seen as an affront to Rome, 9 of the government's original candidates for episcopal office refused to be ordained. One said he "had problems;" another entered a plea of illness. It is not clear whether the government subsequently convinced 2 of those men to accept episcopal ordination, or whether 2 new nominees were added to the list.

    After the original announcement that 5 bishops would be ordained, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls sharply criticized Beijing, saying that the decision to proceed with the unauthorized ordinations would increase the distance between the Chinese political leadership and the authentic Catholic Church. He mentioned that the move was particularly unfortunate because it came at a time when various reports have raised the prospect of new moves toward the normalization of relations between Beijing and the Holy See.

    In recent months, Chinese Catholics have struggled to rebuild their relationship with Rome and the universal Church. A letter addressed to the Chinese faithful by Pope John Paul II, in preparation for the Holy Year, was very well received in China; Fides sources said that Catholics were "moved by the affection of the Pope." Several bishops of the Patriotic Church had even set forth plans for the celebration of the Jubilee-- in a clear response to the Pope's requests, and in apparent defiance of the government's demand that Chinese Catholics should not recognize papal authority.

    One group of priests of the Patriotic Church criticized the announcement of new episcopal ordinations, saying that the move would "put the Chinese Church in a dangerous position of schism." A priest in Beijing added that the government's decision to go ahead with the ordinations, despite the popular protest, provides clear evidence that "the official Church is not free." He told FIDES: "Anyway, we remain with the Pope, and disapprove of this gesture."

    Another Chinese priest added: "These ordinations are only a political move-- simply political. The government only wants to reaffirm its position, according to which the Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs, including even religious affairs."

    The new bishops of the Patriotic Church will be assigned to the Shansi, Mingdong (in the Fujian province), Baoding (in Hebei), and Nanjing dioceses, with 2 new bishops going to Nanjing. The original announcement from the Patriotic Church had only mentioned one bishop apiece for Nanjing, Baoding, and Mingdong.

    The Nantang church, where the ordinations will take place, is tightly controlled by the Patriotic Association, and closely watched by Beijing government officials.

    The Communist government of China tightened security in and around the country's oldest Catholic church on Wednesday, as it prepares to ordain three new bishops for the Patriotic Catholic Association in defiance of Pope John Paul II.

    Beijing announced earlier this week that on Thursday it would ordain five new bishops for the separated Catholic association, down from 12 after a number of the priests picked for the ceremony refused the ordination. The ceremony is an apparent slap at the Pope who will ordain 12 bishops in Rome on Thursday for dioceses around the world.

    The Communist Chinese government requires Christians to worship only in state-controlled associations, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which eschews any connections to the Vatican or the Pope. Many Catholics worship in illegal, underground churches, following only bishops appointed by the Pope.

    The ceremony will take place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1655, burned down in 1900, and rebuilt in 1904. On Wednesday, workers armed with brooms and shovels cleared snow off the walkway leading to the cathedral, while others prepared the interior.

    Police ordered foreign journalists not to take photographs and expelled them from the cathedral.

          

January 6, 2000
volume 10, no. 4
NEWS & VIEWS

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