May 1, 2006

China to defy Rome, ordain second bishop in days

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is poised to appoint another
bishop to its state-run Catholic Church despite Vatican
disapproval, escalating tensions with the Holy See as the two
sides vie for influence over Chinese church affairs.

A priest in the Communist Party-approved church in the
central province of Anhui is to be consecrated bishop of the
province, a vice chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic
Association, Liu Bainian, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Liu Xinhong's appointment is opposed by the Vatican, Hong
Kong's South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

It comes just days after a senior official in the
government-approved church, Ma Yingling, was appointed bishop
of Yunnan province in the face of objections from Hong Kong
Cardinal Joseph Zen and reported disapproval from the Holy See.

Zen told the Hong Kong newspaper that the string of bishops
promoted without Vatican approval suggested the state-run
Patriotic Association was attempting to derail expanding
dialogue between Beijing and the Vatican.

The two sides severed ties after 1949, when the victorious
Communist Party cracked down on religion. The Vatican switched
official recognition to Taiwan, where the anti-Communist
Chinese Nationalists fled.

China's 10 million or more Catholics are divided between an
"underground" church loyal to the Holy See alone, and a
state-approved church that respects the Pope as a spiritual
figurehead but rejects effective papal control.

But even in the government-controlled church, growing
numbers of worshippers and clergy want their bishops to have
the blessing of the Pope, and in recent years it has been
customary for potential bishops to seek Vatican approval.

Liu Bainian, the church official, said there would be an
installation mass on May 14 for Zhan Silu, bishop of the
Mindong diocese in the southeastern province of Fujian. The
Post said Zhan was consecrated bishop by Beijing in 2000 with
five others as a riposte to Rome's canonization of 120 Chinese

"The diocese's former bishop passed away last year and the
then auxiliary bishop Zhan has taken over since," Liu said, "My
understanding is that the faithful there now want to hold a
ceremony to congratulate him."

But he denied that the appointments had anything to do with

"There are more than 40 dioceses without a bishop in China
currently, we cannot wait until China-Vatican ties improve to
consecrate bishops. We need bishops to evangelize. It's a
heavenly calling," he said. "We bow to our faith, not