The Vatican is disturbed by reports from mainland China that government officials are forcing bishops to attend an illicit episcopal ordination.
"If these reports are true, then the Holy See would consider such actions as grave violations of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience," said a Nov. 18 statement from Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
"It would also consider such an ordination as illicit and damaging to the constructive relations that have been developing in recent times between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See," the statement said.
Lombardi confirmed that Father Joseph Guo Jincai, ordained bishop of Chengde Nov. 20, did not have the approval of Pope Benedict to be ordained a bishop.
More than 100 Catholics and dozens of government officials attended the ordination Mass at the church in the rural town of Pingquan. About 100 uniformed and plainclothes police surrounded the village. Cameras were banned in the church, and mobile phone signals were blocked in the area.
In recent years, a Chinese diocese's priests, nuns and laypeople have elected their new bishop, and most of those elected have applied to the Holy See for approval.
If such approval was given, it often was announced at the episcopal ordination.
China requires that the bishops be approved by the government-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China, which the Vatican does not recognize.