Papal regrets over ordination
The Vatican is questioning the validity of Beijing's unilateral ordination of a mainland bishop last week without papal approval, saying the act has caused Pope Benedict 'deep regret' and damaged Sino-Vatican dialogue.
In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican said not only was the ordination of Joseph Guo Jincai as bishop of Chengde diocese in Hebei province 'illicit', the status of the cleric might be invalid because some of those who performed the ritual might have been under duress.
'The Holy Father received the news with deep regret, because the above-mentioned episcopal ordination was conferred without the apostolic mandate and, therefore, constitutes a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and a grave violation of Catholic discipline,' the statement said.
Pointing to information that several of the eight mainland bishops who took part in the ordination ceremony 'were subjected to pressures and restrictions', the Vatican said Guo's status is yet unclear.
'The Holy See intends to carry out a detailed evaluation of what has happened, including consideration of the aspect of validity and the canonical position of the bishops involved.'
The Holy See considers Guo's ordination 'illicit' since it has no papal mandate. If it is found to be invalid - meaning he will remain a priest rather than a bishop - his career in the mainland church controlled by the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association can be seriously affected ahead of a key national Catholic conference to be held next week.
The Holy See is threatening Guo with excommunication.
Since the Pope called for reconciliation in a pastoral letter to mainland Catholics in 2007, Beijing and the Vatican have been engaging in regular diplomatic dialogues which resulted in the ordination or installation of 11 bishops this year alone. They were all mutually approved.
The Vatican statement said this dialogue, along with mutual respect, has been damaged because Beijing ignored its repeated communications about Guo's case.
But Anthony Liu Bainian, a vice-chairman of the patriotic association who was named by the Vatican as behind the move, said Guo's status as a bishop is valid as all those who ordained him had used their free will.