VATICAN CITY — The Vatican today issued a tough statement on the recent ordination of a Chinese bishop without papal approval, saying the prelate has no right to govern the diocese.
The statement also warned that the penalty of excommunication may apply not only to the ordained prelate but to the consecrating bishops who were involved.
Father Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained without a papal mandate June 29 as bishop of Leshan, in the presence of about 1,000 guests and government officials at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Emeishan. Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was the main celebrant. The six other bishops who laid hands on Bishop Lei had all been ordained with Vatican approval.
Speaking to reporters today, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the language of the Vatican comunique left little doubt that Bishop Lei had incurred excommunication, as foreseen by canon law. The Vatican has said consecrating bishops face the same penalty, but that extenuating circumstances may apply — for example, if the bishops are coerced to participate.
Here is the text of the Vatican’s statement:
With regard to the episcopal ordination of the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin, which took place on Wednesday 29 June last and was conferred without the apostolic mandate, the following is stated:
1) Rev. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the Papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognise him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of can. 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place. The same Rev. Lei Shiyin had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons.
2) The consecrating Bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church (in particular, canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 6 June 2011).
3) An episcopal ordination without Papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Supreme Pontiff and damages the unity of the Church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China. The survival and development of the Church can only take place in union with him to whom the Church herself is entrusted in the first place, and not without his consent as, however, occurred in Leshan. If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church’s doctrine and discipline must be respected.
4) The Leshan episcopal ordination has deeply saddened the Holy Father, who wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity.
From the Vatican, 4 July 2011