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China rejects "unreasonable" papal criticism of bishop's ordination

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dpa German Press Agency
Published: Sunday December 3, 2006

Beijing- China has rejected as "unreasonable" criticism by Pope Benedict XVI of its latest ordination of a Catholic bishop without approval from the Vatican, state media said Monday. China's state-run Catholic church ordained Wang Renlei as a bishop of the eastern city of Xuzhou Thursday, prompting the pope to say that he felt "deep pain" at the news.

China has no formal diplomatic ties with the Vatican but had informed Rome in advance of the ordination, reflecting its "great sincerity," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted a spokesman for the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association as saying.

"Given the status quo of the China-Vatican relations and the fact that the Chinese Catholic Bishops College has conducted assessments and the Xuzhou diocese has completed the selection and been prepared for the ordination, the Vatican's requests of stopping and postponing the ordination is unreasonable," the spokesman said.

China now has 97 dioceses, but more than 40 of them do not have bishops and most bishops are old, he said.

Chinese Catholic churches have selected and ordained more than 170 bishops over the past 50 years for "their own survival and development," the spokesman said.

The pope said last week's ordination was against Rome's wishes and "hurt the feelings of every single Catholic."

The state-run Catholic church has ordained at least two other bishops this year without Vatican approval.

The naming of bishops is one of the largest obstacles to a rapprochement between China and the Vatican along with Rome's recognition of Taiwan, the island that China claims as a breakaway province.

Since the ruling Communist Party broke ties with the Vatican in 1951, the Catholic Church in China has been split in two. Official figures showed that about 5 million people belong to the state-run Catholic church while the underground church, which remains faithful to the Vatican, has an estimated 10 million adherents.

All religious organizations must register with government supervisory bodies, but many Christian groups refuse to do so, claiming their religious freedom is too restricted within China's official churches.

Police and officials sometimes forcibly disband illegal Catholic and other religious groups. Their leaders face criminal charges, and buildings used for underground religious activity are often demolished.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency