Vatican gives approval for Chinese bishop's ordination
VATICAN CITY - Agence France-Presse
The Vatican gave its approval yesterday for the ordination of a Chinese bishop in a conciliatory gesture to China's official church but called on "illegitimate" bishops not to attend the rite.
Pietro Luo Xuegang, 47, who built his career within the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) - China's official church, will be ordained as bishop in Yibin in Southeast China on Wednesday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Luo Xuegang was "approved by the Holy See" and hopes "no illegitimate bishop will participate at the ceremony".
"In that case, the event would be an encouragement for the Catholic community," he said.
But according to the Catholic news agency Asianews, the bishop of Leshan, Paolo Lei Shiyin - who was excommunicated by the Vatican in June - is likely to attend the ceremony.
The Vatican and the CPCA have been locked in a bitter struggle in recent months over control of China's Catholics, caught between allegiance to the official church, or to the pope as part of an "underground" Church.
While official statistics put the number of Catholics in China at 5.7 million, independent sources say it is closer to 12 million.
The CPCA's ordination of a bishop last November without the Vatican's permission riled Rome, and the forced participation of a number of bishops at assemblies organised by the official church strained tensions further.
Though difficulties persist - in May Benedict XVI accused the country's communist authorities of pressuring Chinese bishops into separating from the Holy See - relations between the two institutions could now be thawing.
In 2007, the pope called for "reconciliation" between the two churches.
Up until late 2010, Rome had backed the ordination of bishops nominated by the official church as long as they recognise the pope's authority - just as it has done for the upcoming ordination this week.