Holy See condemns episcopal consecration in China

The Holy See issued a condemnation of the consecration of a bishop in China which took place without the permission of the Holy Father.  (My translation of the Italian.)

Communiqué of the Holy See Press Office concerning the illegitimate Episcopal Ordination in Xuzhou (Mainland China)

The Holy See considers it necessary to make known its position about the episcopal ordination of the priest John Wang Renlei, which took place on Thursday 30 November in Xuzhou in the Jiangsu province (Mainland China).

1) The Holy Father received the news with deep sorrow, since the abovementioned episcopal ordination was conferred without pontifical mandate, that is to say without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church concerning the naming of Bishops (cf. canon 377, § 1, of the Code of Canon Law).

2) The episcopal ordination at Xuzhou is the most recent of illegitimate ordinations that have afflicted the Catholic Church in China for several decades, creating divisions in diocesan communities and tormenting the consciences of many ecclesiastics and the faithful.  This series of extremely grave acts, which offend the religious sentiments of every Catholic in China and in the rest of the world, is the fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church that does not correspond to Catholic doctrine and which subvert the fundamental principals of its hierarchical structure.  In fact, as the Second Vatican Council makes clear, "one is constituted a member of the Body of Bishops in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body." (Lumen gentium n. 22).

3. The Holy See, having learned at the last moment of the planned episcopal ordination in the diocese of Xuzhou, did not missing taking those steps which were possible in such a short available time span, so that there would not take place an act that would produce a new laceration in the ecclesial community.  Indeed an illegitimate episcopal ordination is an act which is objectively so grave that canon law establishes severe sanctions for those who confer it and receive it, always with the provision that the act is carried out in the conditions of true freedom (cf. canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law).

4. It is consoling to note that, in spite of the difficult times past and present, nearly all of the Bishops, priests, religious and laity in China, aware that they are members of the Universal Church, have maintained a deep communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter and with the other Catholic communities scattered throughout the world.

5. The Holy See is aware of the spiritual drama and the suffering of these ecclesiastics, consecrating Bishops and the ordinands, who find themselves constrained to take an active part in illegitimate episcopal ordinations, contravening in such a way the Catholic tradition which they would like in their hearts to follow faithfully.  Moreover, (the Holy See) participates in the interior unease of those Catholics – priests, religious and laity – who see themselves as obliged to accept a Pastor whom they know is not in full hierarchical union with the Head of the College of Bishops or with the other Bishops throughout the world.

6) In regard to the episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept being confronted with faits accomplis.  Moreover, the Holy See deplores the way the ordination of the priest Wang Renlei, which took place in Xuzhou, went forward, and hopes that incidents of this sort will not be repeated in the future.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Direct and to the point. Good job. A vast improvement over previous attempts at communication.

  2. Rather inexplicably, the Holy See refused to recognize the ordination of the bishops by Milingo some time ago–as did, similarly inexplicably, Pius X with respect to a similar incident in his pontificate.

    I wonder if it would be beneficial here for the Holy See to again simply refuse to recognize these ordinations–not refusing to recognize their validity, per se, but just refusing to recognize them. That may create enough confusing within the Chinese Church to bring a stop to this silliness..?

  3. Jordan Potter says:

    I think the Holy See does not want there to be a formal schism in China. There already is one in fact. Also, the Holy See does not want to make matters even worse for those Chinese Catholics who are faithful and haven’t sold out to the atheist, anti-human Chinese government. Therefore we see a *carefully-worded* announcement that the new bishop has cut himself off from the Catholic Church, as have those who consecrated him if they did so willingly and not out of compulsion.

  4. Alex says:

    There is already a formal schism in China, Mr Potter. The Patriotic Church is schismatic, and was declared so by Our Most holy Lord and Apostolic Pontiff Pius XII in 1957.

    They usurp jurisdiction, they occupy diocesan thrones! If that is not schism, I do not
    know what ís.

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