China installed a new bishop on Thursday over the objections of the Vatican, prompting Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Roman Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, to issue a blistering statement accusing mainland authorities of having threatened and kidnapped mainland clergy to make them participate in the ritual.
Cardinal Zen said late Thursday night that the ordination by the government-controlled church, which does not take the Vatican’s instructions, was more serious than China’s consecration of two bishops in the spring over Vatican protests, because the Holy See specifically warned the Chinese government then against ordaining any more bishops without approval.
The Vatican raised the prospect then of excommunicating Chinese priests who allowed themselves to be consecrated as bishops in defiance of Rome, although it has not done so.
Cardinal Zen, whom Pope Benedict XVI has granted considerable discretion to speak on issues involving the church on the mainland, also disclosed on Thursday the existence of a secret delegation from the Vatican to Beijing after the spring ordinations. The cardinal said the Chinese government had invited the delegation and had promised that it would not conduct any more ordinations without Vatican approval.
Hours before Cardinal Zen issued his statement, Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, held a news briefing in Beijing at which she urged the Vatican to view the consecration favorably. “We hope the Vatican side can take the history of China-Vatican relations and the current situation of the Chinese church into full account,” she said. Chinese officials were not available after Cardinal Zen spoke.