Chinese Catholics have defended the ordination of three bishops and an
assistant bishop as in line with Catholic traditions, and said the Vatican was
informed in advance.
Liu Bainian, vice-president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association, said
the ordinations were in strict compliance with democratic election rules set out
by the Chinese Catholic Church and Catholic traditions, and had wide support
among the clergy and congregations.
Since last April, the Chinese Catholic Church has ordained the bishops of
Suzhou, Kunming, Anhui and Liaoning after informing the Vatican via private or
personal channels, said Liu.
But Pope Benedict XVI said the consecrations had challenged his authority and
threatened bishop Ma Yinglin, from Kunming, and bishop Liu Xinhong, from Anhui,
along with those who took part in their ordinations, with excommunication.
"The bishops were elected by priests and followers according to democratic
election rules after strict appraisals," said Liu Bainian.
Statistics from the Kunming diocese reveal that Ma, 41, gained all the votes
from the clergy and worshippers at his election in January.
"It's the first time in China that a bishop has been unanimously elected, and
I am really pleased about that," said Liu.
Under Chinese Catholic Church rules, nominees must be pious, knowledgeable in
religious practice, law-abiding and patriotic, and have more than five years of
On the eve of the Kunming election, Jin Peixian, a bishop from Liaoning
Province, who presided over the voting, addressed electors at a special meeting,
requiring them to attach proper importance to the election.
"You should bear in your mind the spirit of accountability to Christ and vote
according to your mind and conscience and for the benefit of the church," he
Only eligible church members attended the events. "There were no visitors, no
non-voting delegates and no government officials," said Liu.
"So the election fully reflected the will of the priests and believers of the
diocese," he said. "As a Catholic saying goes, 'the voice of the masses is the
sacred will of God.'"