|Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng|
Pursuing a strategy to build a Church independent of Rome, the Chinese authorities have ordained another bishop without the Pope’s approval – the third in just over a year
Vatican InsiderThe state-sanctioned Church in China has defied the laws and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the public veto of the Holy See, by ordaining Father Joseph Yue Fusheng in Harbin city - known as “Ice City” - in northeastern China.
Five bishops in communion with Rome participated in the ordination of Father Yue, at the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, in Harbin city, the capital of Heilongjiang province. Some 40 priests concelebrated the mass attended by 400 people, under tight security, UCA News reported.
Bishop Johan Fang Xinyao of Linyi, Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), was the main celebrant at the ceremony on July 6.
He was assisted by four other bishops: Paul Meng Qinglu (Hohhot), Paul Pei Junmin of Shenyang (Liaoning), John Wang Renlei (Xuzhou) and Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang (Zhouchun), who also laid hands on Father Yue. All five bishops were prohibited by Church law from participating in the illicit ordination.
Two other bishops had been invited - Li Shan (Beijing) and Qu Ailin (Changsha), but did not attend because illness, but sent apologies and congratulations.
Knowing there was opposition in the Catholic community to this illicit ordination, the Chinese authorities detained two priests who objected to it – Father Joseph Zhao Hongchun, the apostolic administrator of Harbin who does not belong to the CCPA, and his assistant – Fr Zhang Xisheng. But they released them after the ceremony.
Father Yue, who had been informed in advance by the Holy See that he did not have the Pope’s approval, incurred automatic excommunication by accepting the ordination, in accordance with Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. Consequently, he has no spiritual authority to govern the Catholic community in that diocese as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples made clear in a statement on July 3.
The five bishops who ordained him are also subject to the severe sanctions envisaged by the Code for this violation of Church law. Each will now have to give a formal explanation to the Holy See for their participation, and request pardon from the Pope if they are to be reconciled with the Catholic Church. Such reconciliation is not necessarily guaranteed.
“I know the road ahead is tortuous, but I have no regrets. I am willing to conform to God’s call and take up the heavy cross,” Fr Yue told the congregation after his ordination, UCA News reported.
Father Yue was ordained as bishop of Heilongjiang, a diocese created by the Chinese authorities through merging all the ecclesiastical territories in the Heilongjiang province into one diocese, called Harbin in 1959 and Heilongjiang in 1993. The Holy See was not consulted about this reorganization and does not recognize the diocese.
Born in Hebei province in 1964, Father Yu was ordained priest in 1988, and elected as candidate to be bishop of Heilongjiang diocese in 1999, but the state-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference (BCCCC - an entity not recognized by the Holy See) did not give its approval for his ordination then. The Chinese authorities organized a re-confirmation election in Harbin on May 16.
Father Yue is one of the ten vice-chairpersons of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), an entity created by the state to control the Catholic Church in China, but “incompatible” with Catholic Church doctrine, as Pope Benedict stated in 2007.
Father Yue is one of eight illegitimate bishops in China today, and the third to be ordained without papal approval since June 2011.