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Clandestine ordination in unofficial Church

ROME (SE): Father Dong Guanhua was reported by the Rome-based Vatican Insider to have been ordained as a bishop in the unofficial Church diocese of Zhengding, China, in late September.

The report says that he did not consult the local, legitimate bishop, or have permission from the pope or Holy See.

The Vatican Insider report published on October 10, says that Father Dong engineered the ordination himself and played on the retired bishop of Tianshui, Bishop Casimirus Wang Milu, who is described as possibly suffering from dementia, as of late he has been making erratic decisions and sometimes acting in an unpredictable manner.

The legitimate bishop of the diocese, Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, had no hesitation in condemning the ordination and declaring that Father Dong had incurred automatic excommunication by consenting and even conspiring to be ordained by a bishop without the appropriate mandate.

Eighty-one-year-old Bishop Jia is a much respected character in the Church in his diocese, as he has continued to exercise his ministry, despite periods spent in prison and under house arrest.

Although the Vatican Insider reported that not all details of the circumstances surrounding the ordination have been released at this stage, it claims that it sheds some light on some of the complexities that plague Church life in China at present.

The current negotiations between the Vatican and Beijing have been controversial in some parts of the unofficial Church, with many carrying the fear that they are going to be sold down the drain if any agreement is reached.

However, Bishop Jia does not belong to this group and is on record as expressing his faith in Pope Francis and the people involved in the negotiations.

The Vatican Insider quoted him as saying in February, “We have faith in the pope. We are not worried. We know that the pope will not renounce things that are essential and which constitute the very nature of the Church.”

The report claims that it is this highly conciliatory attitude displayed by Bishop Jia that Father Dong is objecting to and has accused him of behaving like a bishop of the official community that is willing to cooperate with the government.

The Vatican Insider also claims that an increasing number of bishops in the unofficial communities are now expressing hope in the Vatican-Beijing negotiations and beginning to believe that they may open a path towards some type of resolution, or at least mitigate the difficulties that the Church is experiencing.

The incident is not likely to affect the negotiations, as it is well known that both the Vatican and Beijing have their own problems with certain sectors of the unofficial Church communities.

The Vatican Insider says, “It is unlikely the Zhengding incident will be enough to sabotage Sino-Vatican relations.”

It dubbed those who supported Father Dong in manipulating the aged bishop as sectarian, saying that they are even capable of branding Bishop Jia as a traitor.

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