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BBC's Duncan Hewitt reports from Beijing
"The hierarchy of China's official Catholic church was out in force"
 real 28k

BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing
''Beijing's anger has been fueled by the Vatican's ties with Taiwan''
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 11:37 GMT
China defies Pope

Priests attend the ceremony Members of the state Catholic Church attend the ordination ceremony


The state-approved Catholic Church in China has ordained five new bishops at a ceremony in Beijing in defiance of the Vatican.

On Tuesday, the Vatican said the normalisation of ties with China would be undermined by such appointments, which are normally made by the Pope in Rome.

The ordinations in Beijing, which fall on the holy day of the Epiphany, come just hours before the Pope is due to name 12 new bishops at an annual ceremony in St Peter's, Rome.

Correspondents say the Chinese ordinations are a snub to Pope John Paul and an indication that recent contacts are unlikely to succeed in restoring links.


The Pope The Pope has expressed a wish to go to China

Beijing broke off relations about 40 years ago with the Vatican and has appointed its own bishops ever since.

It says the Vatican must sever its links with Taiwan before relations can be restored and stop meddling in China's internal affairs.

Vows

The new bishops, dressed in flowing white robes, knelt to take their vows before a congregation of 300 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Police were stationed on the snowy streets outside the cathedral, which was still bedecked with Christmas decorations.

The ceremony largely followed Roman Catholic practice, although reports say that as well as the traditional religious vows, the Chinese Catholic Church also demands new bishops adhere to ''patriotic'' virtues.

These include defending "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and supporting the "reunification of the motherland", an allusion to Taiwan which Beijing considers a renegade province.

The five bishops were chosen by the Patriotic Catholic Association, which is loyal to China's atheist Communist rulers.

Underground church

Some four million Chinese are members of the official church which boasts 70 bishops.

But the Vatican says about eight million belong to the underground Catholic Church, which remains loyal to the Pope.

The Pope continues to nominate Chinese bishops of his own.

The five new bishops are Su Changshan, 73, Lu Xingping, 35, Zhan Silu, 39, Fang Jianping, 36, and Jin Daoyuan, 73. They will replace elderly retiring clerics in cities including Nanjing, Baoding and Tanshan.

The Vatican missionary news agency Fides said China's Catholic Church had wanted to ordain even more bishops, but nine candidates had refused because of the "clear competition" with the Holy See.

Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the move would impede what many hoped was a new rapprochement between Beijing and the Vatican.

"I have to express the surprise and disappointment of the Holy See,'' he added.

"This decision comes at a time when rumours from different sources led us to look forward to a normalisation of ties between the Vatican and Beijing."

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See also:
04 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese church 'snubs' Pope
10 Aug 99 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'blocks Pope visit'
06 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pope urges spread of Catholicism

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