BY DAN FRANK
CHINESE GOVERNMENT officials are planning to appoint two Catholic priests as bishops without Vatican approval, despite strong resistance from the laity.
According to Catholic World News, Fr Lei Shiying and Fr Li Zhigang, officials of the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association, are rumoured to have been selected as Bishop of Leshan and Bishop of Chengdu, respectively. Both dioceses are in Sichuan province.
Catholics loyal to the Holy See fear that these appointments could cause serious rifts within the Church. They would further complicate already troubled relations among Catholics in China, where an underground Church contends with the government-recognised Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA).
The Beijing regime requires Catholics to recognise the authority of the PCA, and periodically arrests and harasses the leaders of the underground Church, who refuse to renounce loyalty to the Pope.
In January 2000 the Beijing government ordained six bishops for the “official” Catholic community, despite repeated objections from Rome. The Vatican denounced those ordinations as “a painful wound to Church communion”. Under canon law, the penalty for consecrating bishops without authorisation from the Vatican is excommunication.