China commenced assigning a new bishop despite Vatican request to delay the appointment, Sunday, threatening Sino-Vatican relations.
Father Ma Yinglin was ordained bishop at a ceremony in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China, as televised by Hong Kong and China news stations.
The Foreign Ministry said that the Vatican’s response was "groundless" and that most officials support the decision, according to USA today.
Official from China’s state-sanctioned churches echoed the statement on Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong-based newspaper known to favor mainland Chinese government opinion.
"The Vatican mustn't interfere in China's internal affairs, including interfering in domestic matters in the name of religion," a spokesman with China’s Foreign Ministry said, as quoted by Ta Kung Pao.
The decision made by the state-affiliated Chinese Catholic Protestant Association came just as China and the Vatican is commencing relations since Sino-Vatican relations were severed after the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover in 1949.
Amongst those in the Vatican whom have opposed the decision includes Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong.
The bishop urged the government’s Catholic church, Saturday, that Ma’s appointment should be suspended since he "has not received approval from the Holy See," says AsiaNews, which is affiliated with the Vatican.
Over 10 million Chinese Catholics remain divided between allegiances with the unregistered churches still loyal to the Vatican, and the state-sanctioned churches, which does not accept papal control but sees the Pope as a spiritual guide.
Catholics in China are only allowed to worship at state-controlled churches. Those attending unregistered churches have often been arrested, fined or jailed.
"On the appointment and dismissal of bishops, China and the Vatican have never had truly significant negotiations," said Ren Yanli, a China-Vatican relations expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as quoted by Ta Kung Pao.
Ren added that Ma’ appointment could become "a contest between China and the Vatican over this issue."
Previous to his appointment, Ma had served as the secretary-general for the government-approved Council of Bishops, and as vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Both organizations have told the Vatican, which does not recognize the Council of Bishops, to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and that the Holy See has no say on leadership appointments in China.