Print Version    Email to Friend
Illicit ordinations on the day of papal inauguration

Kunming (UCAN): Coincidence or not, the illicit ordination of two priests in Yunnan province, China, on March 19, the same day that Pope Francis was installed in the Vatican, has raised hackles in the Holy See.

The renegade Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, from Kunming, who himself was illicitly ordained as a bishop in 2006, raised new questions about Beijing-Holy See relations when he ordained two priests on the same day that Pope Francis officially began his pontificate.

The ordinations of Father Paul Yue Bangshuang, an ethnic Yi from Dali diocese, and Father Joseph Bu Shuncai, an ethnic Jingpo from Zhaotong apostolic prefecture, took place at a small church in Ruili city, on the border with the Union of Myanmar.

A priest who concelebrated with Bishop Ma at the Mass said that the ordination had not been planned to clash with the installation of the new pope, but the day was chosen several months prior to the event, because it was the solemnity of St. Joseph. 

He explained, “It was impossible to change the date because many relatives and friends had expected and prepared for this joyful occasion.”

The priest added, “I hope the outside world will not misunderstand. We ordain priests simply for the need of the local Church.”

During the Mass, Bishop Ma led the congregation in praying for God’s blessing on the new pope so he may lead the Church to achieve unity and that it may flourish.

In addition, the bishop’s illicit status created confusion among some Church observers.

One, who requested anonymity, said it was strange that the Beijing government would send a goodwill message to Pope Francis while allowing Bishop Ma to proceed. He described the ordinations as “a sacrilegious act which splits up the Church.”

However, some people see Bishop Ma’s act as confrontational.

One asked, “Is Ma signalling to the new pope that he and the China Church will hold fast to the independent Church principle?” while at the same time wondering if the Holy See would excommunicate Bishop Ma, as he has repeatedly violated Church law.

The newly ordained are graduates from seminaries in Hebei and Shaanxi, and were ordained deacons by Bishop Ma last December.

Three thousand people were present at the ordination, including six priests and some laypeople from Myanmar, who crossed the border to join the ceremony.

This is the third time Bishop Ma has ordained priests—two in April 2008 and six in March 2012— since he was ordained a bishop without papal mandate in 2006. 

In 2010, Bishop Ma was elected president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Church in China and vice chairperson of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, but neither of the two bodies is recognised by the Vatican.

This month, he was renamed to the Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference, the government’s top advisory body.

More from this section