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Vatican excommunicates Chinese bishop

New York Times / July 9, 2011

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BEIJING - The Vatican has excommunicated a newly ordained Chinese bishop, a move that is likely to exacerbate already frayed relations between the Holy See and China’s governing Communist Party.

The decision to formally announce the excommunication of the bishop, the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin of Sichuan Province, came a week after China’s state-run Catholic church ignored the Vatican’s objections and went ahead with the ordination ceremony, which was attended by seven other bishops.

Reached by phone, a Vatican official declined to discuss the case, but in a statement released Wednesday, church officials said that Pope Benedict XVI was deeply saddened by the move, which “sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China.’’

The Vatican said the bishops who took part in the ordination had “exposed themselves to serious canonical sanctions’’ and could face excommunication, according to the statement.

A spokesman for the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the government body that oversees state-run Catholic churches, would not talk about the clash with the Vatican. But in an e-mailed statement, the association expressed regret over the Vatican’s decision, saying it would prove divisive.

“It will bring more disputes to all churches and will affect the spread of the Gospel and church development,’’ the statement said.

China cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the Communists came to power. The state maintains a firm grip on organized religious practice, and it is wary of the challenge presented by papal authority.

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