AFP: China detains Vatican-backed Catholic priest

From Agence France-Presse:

China detains Vatican-backed Catholic priest

(AFP) – 6 hours ago

BEIJING — Chinese police detained a Vatican-backed Catholic priest and blocked his ordination as a bishop, a parishioner said Thursday, in a move likely to raise tensions with the Holy See.

The detention of Joseph Sun Jigeng came as China’s state-run Catholic church reportedly ordained another bishop without the consent of the Vatican, which stipulates ordinations can only go ahead with the Holy See’s blessing.

“Joseph Sun Jigeng was taken away by police on June 26 and he has not been released,” a member of the Handan Catholic church in northern China’s Hebei province told AFP by phone.

“On June 29, we had planned to have the ordination ceremony, but the police have blocked the road and no ceremony can be held. Police said it was an ‘illegal activity’,” said the church member, who refused to be named.

But the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) — which controls the state-backed church — denied Sun, 43, had been detained when contacted by AFP, while police in Handan refused to comment.


Last week, the Beijing-backed church said it wanted to ordain at least 40 bishops “without delay”.

On Wednesday, Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained without Vatican approval as the bishop of Leshan in a ceremony held in southwest China’s Sichuan province, the Vatican-linked AsiaNews website reported.

Liu Bainian, deputy head of the CPCA, confirmed Lei’s ordination but was noncommittal about Vatican approval.

“We have not contacted the Vatican on this, but I think they know it. I’m not sure whether they agreed to this or not,” he said.

China’s 5.7 million Catholics are caught between staying loyal to the ruling Communist Party or showing allegiance to the pope as part of an “underground” Church not recognised by the authorities.

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  1. Iowander says:

    Isn’t ordination of a bishop without the consent of the Holy See an latae sententiae excommunication for both the ordainer and the ordained? Is this the same type of thing that happened with the Church of England? How much of the church in China is in schism and how much of it isn’t?

  2. kat says:

    I find it amazing that so many in the US believe “Communism is dead.” Communism is not dead; “Russia will spread her errors.” Our Lady of Fatima did not lie.

  3. matt fong says:

    This is quite sad development, if not unexpected. I often travel to China for work and I love listening to Mass in Chinese (despite the fact I barely speak) and listening to what might be the Rosary being chanted in Chinese before Mass. I’m trying to say there is hope — but there’s got to be deep wounds between the Underground church and the Patriotic church that need to be healed.

  4. David Collins says:

    Let’s see: the Chinese government wants the Church without the Vatican, sodomite activists want the Church to approve their sin, some women want the Church to ordain them.

    Is there anybody who doesn’t want to tell the Church what to do? And maybe even listen to her?

  5. Oleksander says:


    Some dioceses (Beijing comes to mind) are in full communion with the bishop of Rome because the bishop was appointed with Vatican approval, while others are not because the the particular bishop was appointed without Vatican approval – and some of these bishops have pledged secret loyalty to the pope. There is of course the underground Church which operates through out the entire country regardless of which diocese is in schism or not.

  6. seanl says:

    Clearly a move on the Party’s part to block the ordination of bishop that’s loyal to the Pope and not the Party.

    I’ve always been interested in the differences between how the Soviets in Russia handled the Church and how the Chinese Communists have handled it. Soviet Russia had to deal with a people that was deeply religious up until the revolution, albeit the Orthodox faith was the mainstream branch there. China had it easier from a propaganda point of view since the Christian faith is a more recent introduction seen to have been brought by the West. And yet, Russia tried to destroy religion completely rather than incorporate it into a state-run Church. Forming the state-sponsored Church give the Party an added edge that the Soviets never had: they realize the threat of the Church not only on the political level, but on the spiritual level. The state-sponsored church has caused more confusion amid the faithful there than the militant atheism of the Soviets ever could have.

  7. CharlesG says:

    Seanl: I don’t think there is as much difference between the Soviet and the Chinese model of Communist state/Christian church dealings as you think. The Soviet Union initially did try to wipe out religion, but then Stalin backtracked a bit around WWII and allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to exist but under tight gov’t control. When the People’s Republic of China was first establishedin 1949, the Chinese followed the Soviet model and set up state-sponsored churches (actually two, a Protestant one and a Catholic one — the “Patriotic” Catholic Church). During the Cultural Revolution, pretty much all organized religion was shut down in the country, but the state sponsored churches that had been set up in the 1950’s were brought back again with Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up”.

  8. sejoga says:

    In all fairness, David Collins @ 1:36, there’s a substantial difference between the “faithful” who demand recognition of same-sex unions and women’s ordination, and the true faithful who simply have government-mandated bishops imposed on them. Catholics in China, apparently even many of the bishops who are ordained illicitly under pressure from the Communist Party, still retain the utmost respect for the Church and the Vatican, and the situation is simply out of their hands. That’s a very different case from the activists in the West.

    But other than that, of course, you’re quite right.

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