HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen on Friday lashed out at China's latest ordination of a bishop without papal approval — the third known case this year — accusing Beijing of reneging on a promise to the Vatican to stop the practice.
Wang Renlei, the 37-year-old vicar-general of the Xuzhou Diocese in the eastern province of Jiangsu, was ordained Thursday in a two-hour ceremony attended by about 1,000 people, said Liu Bainian, deputy chairman of the government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Liu defended the installment of Wang, saying his predecessor needed to be replaced because he was more than 90 years old.
Beijing broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 after the communists took power and set up a separate Catholic church outside the authority of the Holy See. Local faithful are only allowed to worship with the state-sanctioned church.
Efforts to resume Sino-Vatican diplomatic ties have been hindered by China's reluctance to cede its power to name bishops. Beijing views papal appointments in China as an interference in internal affairs.
China drew fire from the Vatican when it installed Bishops Ma Yinglin in the southwestern city of Kunming and Liu Xinhong in Wuhu in the central province of Anhui earlier this year. The Holy See threatened to excommunicate the priests.
Zen, however, said in a statement Friday that after the first round of bishop appointments this year, Beijing had invited a Vatican delegation to the Chinese capital and promised to stop the practice.
"It is hard to understand how there can be people who obstinately work for destruction," Zen said.
The cardinal suggested China's government-backed church fears it will lose power if Beijing recognizes the Vatican.
He said Thursday's ordination "made evident how those with vested interests are terribly afraid that the church one day may operate normally and freely according to her constitution."
Zen also criticized the Chinese government for allegedly detaining two bishops recognized by the Vatican and forcing them to attend Wang's ordination.
Despite the Vatican's illegitimacy in China, millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and members of their congregations are frequently detained and harassed.
While banned in mainland China, the Vatican operates in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled former British colony that is promised significant autonomy and Western-style civil liberties such as religious freedom.
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