Vatican's criticism of ordination 'unreasonable'

Updated: 2006-12-03 21:00

China on Sunday refuted Vatican's criticism on its ordination of an assistant bishop, saying that latter's accusation is "unreasonable".

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association last Thursday ordained Wang Renlei as bishop coadjutor of Xuzhou diocese in Jiangsu Province, which the Vatican said was "unlawful."

A spokesperson for the State Administration of Religious Affairs pointed out that China and the Vatican have no official ties; and neither have they reached any tacit understanding or agreement on the ordination of bishops. The Vatican has never recognized the Chinese Catholic Bishops College.

The spokesperson said under the circumstances, Beijing following a request from the Chinese Catholic Church had informed the Vatican in advance of the selection and ordination, "which showed great sincerity."

"Given the status quo of China-Vatican relations, the fact that the Chinese Catholic Bishops College had conducted an assessment, and the Xuzhou diocese prepared for the ordination, the Vatican's requests to stop or postpone the ordination were unreasonable," the spokesperson said.

"Its accusation after the ordination also makes no sense," he said.

Bishop Qian Yurong of the Xuzhou diocese, who is 94 years old, had expressed hope that the selection of bishop coadjutor be made as soon as possible, the spokesperson said.

On October 21, priest Wang Renlei was nominated as bishop coadjutor by Catholic priests and believers in the Xuzhou diocese after a democratic election according to Catholic tradition and rules of the Chinese Catholic Bishops College.

The spokesperson said the Chinese Catholic Bishops College scrutinized Wang's qualifications and believe that he is a man of pious faith, moral integrity and outstanding capability with rich working experience; and is the right nominee for bishop.

China has 97 dioceses, but more than 40 do not have bishops; and most bishops are old. "The churches cannot exist without bishops," he said.

The spokesperson said over the past five decades, Chinese Catholic churches for their own survival and development have selected and ordained more than 170 bishops.

Such moves fulfilled the wishes of China's Catholic clergy and believers and also met the "urgent need" for China's Catholic churches to manage church affairs and spread Catholicism.

The spokesperson said the Chinese Government respects and supports the choices of Chinese Catholic churches. "If the Vatican really cares about China's Catholic churches, there should, naturally, be understanding and support," he said.

Official figures show that there are more than 5 million Catholic believers in China, compared to 2.7 million half a century ago.

The spokesperson said the government has always been "positive" in improving relations with the Vatican and is ready to have a "constructive" dialogue on issues including the ordination of bishops.

"We hope the Vatican will stop interfering in China's internal affairs and show goodwill to improve ties," the spokesperson said.

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu asked the Vatican to "understand" the ordination of bishops by the Chinese church and see it in a positive light.

Since April, the Chinese Catholic Church has ordained the bishops of Suzhou, Kunming, Anhui and Liaoning after informing the Vatican through private or personal channels in advance.

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