Joseph Zen attacks 'renegade believers' in mainland church Beijing yesterday gave its blessing to the ordination of a Catholic bishop without papal approval by sending a top-level religious affairs official to attend the ceremony. The gesture was a snub to the Vatican, which had urged there be no more 'illicit' ordinations. The decision to ordain Wang Renlei as coadjutor bishop of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province has caused anger in Rome and Hong Kong and could set back talks between Beijing and the Vatican on resuming diplomatic links. In a statement understood to have been authorised by the Vatican, Hong Kong's Catholic leader, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun attacked 'renegade believers' in the mainland church for 'destroying the church's unity' and urged state leaders to intervene. Cardinal Zen said: 'We beg you to start a substantive dialogue with the Holy See, to find a way acceptable to both so the church in our country may operate normally.' He said the latest ordination was 'more serious' than two earlier this year because 'the central government promised not to promote such ordinations any more' in its agreement in June. But a senior Vatican source said 'we are still keeping our doors open [for dialogue] although we don't like what has happened'. Hundreds of Catholics gathered in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Xuzhou to be blessed by Bishop Wang, who emerged after the Mass in a white mitre and matching robes after pledging to work for social harmony. Ye Xiaowen , director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, attended the Mass with officials from the Communist Party's United Front Department. Liu Bainian , a vice-chairman of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said Mr Ye's presence showed the central government recognised the importance of the ordination. 'He has come to congratulate and express care towards the Catholic Church,' Mr Liu said after attending the Mass. 'We have asked the government to tell Rome about the details of the ordination. This is the only thing the church in China can do.' He denied reports that bishops were forced to join in the Mass. Bishop Wang's appointment was the third episcopal ordination this year to have been deemed illicit by the Vatican. The Holy See strongly criticised the ordination of bishops Ma Yinglin of Yunnan and Liu Xinhong of Anhui in April and May. It seemed agreement had been reached in June that Beijing would not ordain bishops without Vatican approval. The Holy See learned just 10 days ago of the plan to ordain Bishop Wang. He had been chosen by local clergy almost a month earlier. Bishop Wang, who will eventually succeed 94-year-old Bishop Qian Yurong , never directly sought the Vatican's approval and the date of the ceremony was fixed before it could carry out its investigation and approval process. The Foreign Ministry urged the Vatican to view the ordination positively but warned against interference in mainland affairs. 'We sincerely hope for the improvement of our relations with the Vatican,' a spokeswoman said. Anthony Lam Sui-ki, of Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Study Centre, said the Patriotic Association and Mr Ye's department had sought to derail the Sino-Vatican talks. The Vatican may decide to excommunicate Bishop Zhao Fengchang , the principal celebrant of the Mass. Bishop Wang also faces excommunication.