Chinese Catholics ordain new bishop

By Alexa Olesen The Associated Press

BEIJING – China’s state-sanctioned Roman Catholic Church ordained a new bishop yesterday, rejecting the Vatican’s request to delay the appointment and threatening efforts to restore official ties between the sides after five decades.

China’s Foreign Ministry defended the official church’s right to ordain bishops without Vatican input and called the Holy See’s criticism of such appointments “groundless.”

The ordination could damage recent efforts to restore Sino-Vatican ties, cut in 1951 after the Communist Party took control in China. One of the stumbling blocks in improving relations has long been a dispute over who has the authority to appoint bishops.

“The recent ordination of bishops at some diocese have been unanimously well-received by church members and priests,” the Foreign Ministry said in a faxed statement. “The criticism toward the Chinese side by the Vatican is groundless.”

China’s church – the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association – held a ceremony for the new bishop, Ma Yinglin, in the city of Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province.

Hong Kong Cable TV showed Ma wearing his new bishop’s hat and carrying an ornate gold staff as he waved to the faithful.

Before the ceremony, the TV report showed a long line of clergy in white robes walking into a church with a Chinese-style sloping roof with yellow tiles. Security was tight, with police checking the invited audience at the entrance.

Outside the church, ethnic minorities from Yunnan performed, with dancing women on one side of the sidewalk twirling and clapping their hands as men on the other side played banjo-like instruments.

“We are extremely happy to participate in Father Ma Yinglin’s ordination,” an unidentified dancing woman wearing an ornate headdress decorated with silver balls told the TV station. “He’s been a big help to us. This year when we built a new church, he gave us part of the money.”