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Vatican excommunicates Chinese Bishops

4 May 2006 at 20:00 | 4339 views

The Vatican has excommunicated two bishops who were ordained by China’s state-run Catholic church without Rome’s approval.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Pope Benedict XVI considers the Chinese ordinations a grave violation of religious freedom, since the Vatican believes it alone has the power to create new Catholic bishops.

"The Holy Father learned of the news with great sadness," Navarro-Valls said in a statement Thursday.

He called China’s decision to ordain the bishops "a great wound to the unity of the Church."

Navarro-Valls later confirmed that the two bishops had been excommunicated, in line with Vatican guidelines for dealing with unauthorized ordinations, along with the two bishops who presided at their ordinations.

China has defended its decision, saying the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association was adhering to the wishes of a majority of worshippers by ordaining Liu Xinhong in the province of Anhui and Ma Yinglin in the province of Yunnan.

However, some members of China’s eight million-strong underground Catholic movement, which worships separately from the government-sanctioned Catholic association that has four million adherents, have reportedly objected to the appointments made this week. They say the new bishops are too close to the government.

The ordinations are seen as a major setback to the restoration of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China, which ended in 1951 when China expelled the Vatican’s ambassador.

Relations with China were said to be one of Benedict’s priorities when he was elected Pope last spring.

Photo: Chinese catholics.