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Vatican: China’s Ordination Failed

January 8, 2000

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Several priests refused to be ordained as bishops by China’s official state Catholic Church this week in an open gesture of defiance against Beijing, the Vatican’s news agency said today.

China’s state-controlled church ordained the bishops without Vatican approval Thursday in what was widely seen as a slap at the Roman Catholic Church, which conducted its traditional Epiphany ordination of bishops at Saint Peter’s the same day.

However, the Vatican’s missionary news service, Fides, called the ceremony a ``failure,″ claiming that, along with the candidates’ refusal, scores of seminarians had boycotted the ceremony.

China and the Vatican broke diplomatic ties in 1951, when the Communists forced the country’s millions of Catholics to sever ties with Rome. China’s officially sanctioned church does not recognize papal authority, including the authority to appoint bishops.

Fides claimed China originally intended to ordain 12 bishops, matching the number at the St. Peter’s ceremony, but was able to coerce only five to take part.

``All were under extreme pressure,″ Fides said. It said the five who were ordained now face a ``difficult time because of their de facto illegitimate ordinations.″ The faithful might refuse the sacrament from their hands and that some followers already had asked the Holy See not to recognize the ordinations.

More than 130 seminarians at the National Seminary of Beijing boycotted the ceremony after being forced to attend a rehearsal on Wednesday, Fides claimed. It quoted one, unidentified boycotter as saying they now ``fear pressure and even prosecution.″

Some bishops invited to the ceremony disappeared shortly before, it said. It said attendance was only about 200, compared to 400 to 600 for a normal Sunday Mass at the same Beijing cathedral.

China called the ordination an internal affair of the state Catholic church, not subject to interference. Officials denied the ceremony was timed to the St. Peter’s ordinations.