A Catholic bishop in China condemned the ordination last week of priests for the “Diocese of Zhangjiakou” in the northern part of the country, saying the “diocese” is not recognized by the Vatican.
Auxiliary Bishop Simone Zhang Jianlin of Xuanhua in the northwestern Hebei province said the “Diocese of Zhangjiakou” is not recognized by the Holy See and “does not have legitimacy.”
“The recent diaconal and priestly ordinations and (the) candidates have not been previously discussed with Bishop Cui Tai,” said the prelate.
Bishop Augustine Cui Tai, coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Xuanhua, remains missing and is believed to be in the hands of the police.
“On the basis of the Code of Canon Law and the principles of the social doctrine of the Church, the present diocese does not recognize this ordination,” said Bishop Zhang in a statement.
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic church, a government-run institution, ordained several priests, a move described by critics as a violation of an agreement signed by the Vatican and China last year.
The Vatican still has to recognize the government-created diocese of Zhangjiakou on the outskirts of Beijing that was established in 1980.
The Holy See instead maintains the area into two dioceses — Xuanhua and Xiwanzi.
The Diocese of Xiwanzi is led by bishop Joseph Ma Yanen, while Bishop Cui Tai heads Xuanhua.
A report by AsiaNews said the recent ordinations were organized by Guo Jincai, vice president of the National Patriotic Association.
The report said the haste with which the ordinations were carried out “was primarily due to the priest whom the government placed at the head of the community of Zhangjiakou, Father Wang Zhengui.”
It said that the priest has a “great desire to be recognized as a bishop and at the same time he would like to prepare a large priestly community for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics” in Zhangjiakou.
In October last year, the Holy See and China announced that they had agreed to extend the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for another two years.
The deal provides that the pope has the final say in the appointment of bishops in China while the Vatican accepts the process of “the democratic election” of candidates to be bishops.