Report: Chinese to defy Vatican


BEIJING (AP) – China’s state-sanctioned Roman Catholic Church will install a new bishop opposed by the Vatican on Sunday, potentially damaging efforts to restore official ties between the sides, a Vatican-linked news agency reported.

Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese, which is under Vatican jurisdiction, protested the planned ordainment Saturday.

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association will ordain Ma Yinglin as bishop of the city of Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province, Rome-based AsiaNews said Friday.

News of the ordainment comes amid indications that Sino-Vatican talks on resuming ties are entering a substantive phase.

AsiaNews said the Vatican opposes Ma because he is too close to the official Chinese church’s leaders and has little pastoral experience.

It said the Holy See had asked that Ma’s ordination be delayed.

“With this latest showdown the Patriotic Association is aiming in fact to destroy rapprochement between Beijing and the Holy See,” AsiaNews said.

The association’s vice chairman, Liu Bainian, said the onus for improving relations is on the Vatican.

“I really hope relations could improve soon. The key is at the Vatican. This is a concrete test. If they oppose the ordainment of Ma Yinglin it would affect the improvement of Sino-Vatican relations,” he said in a phone interview with Hong Kong TV station ATV.

He also told Hong Kong radio station RTHK that the official Chinese church was acting in the interests of the faithful while Sino-Vatican ties are still being sorted out.

Hong Kong’s Catholic church said in a statement Saturday it had sent a message to the Kunming church asking it to drop Ma’s ordainment ceremony because the Vatican has not approved it.

Hong Kong, a former British colony now ruled by China, still enjoys religious freedom.

The statement said Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen believes that “anyone who pressures clergy to carry out a ceremony without the Holy See’s approval is intentionally sabotaging Sino-Vatican negotiations.”

Zen urged Chinese leaders to stop such “violent actions,” the statement said.

An operator answering the phone at the Patriotic Association said its leaders had left for Yunnan, and no one was available for comment. A call to the Chinese Foreign Ministry rang unanswered.

China and the Vatican cut ties in 1951. Catholics in the mainland are only allowed to worship at churches run by the patriotic Catholic association, but millions belong to underground churches loyal to the Vatican.

Those who meet in such churches are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.

The two main stumbling blocks to renewed Sino-Vatican relations are the Holy See’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the Vatican’s power to appoint bishops, which China views as an interference in internal affairs.

The Vatican has said it is willing to switch recognition from Taiwan, which split with China amid civil war in 1949. The mainland strongly discourages other countries from having diplomatic ties with Taipei.

It is unclear if Beijing will budge on its authority over bishops.

AP-ES-04-29-06 0927EDT