BEIJING (AP) — China's government-backed Catholic church on Thursday ordained a third bishop without the pope's approval in eight months, despite a Vatican appeal to Chinese leaders.
The ordination deepens a standoff in which the Vatican insists the pope has sole right to appoint bishops and Beijing's Communist leaders see that position as foreign interference.
The Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang "is now the bishop of Shantou. The ordination ceremony has finished," Liu Bainian, honorary president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-controlled group that runs China's Catholic churches, told The Associated Press on Thursday afternoon.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters Thursday the Chinese ordination caused "pain and concern" at the Vatican.
"The position and feelings of the Holy See and the pope have already been expressed in previous recent circumstances," Lombardi said.
Vatican-affiliated news agency AsiaNews reported Wednesday that four bishops who had been held "for days" by government representatives would be forced to attend the ceremony in Shantou city in Guangdong province, along with four other bishops.
Beijing places tremendous pressure on priests and lay people to acknowledge state-chosen bishops.
A papal adviser, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, took out a half-page advertisement in Wednesday's mass-market Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong to issue an "urgent appeal" to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Zen urged the two leaders to restrain "rogue public servants" who are "using violence to assist scum inside the church to force bishops, priests, and followers to do things against their consciences."
The Vatican was furious over the ordinations of the Rev. Guo Jincai in Chengde city in November and the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin in Sichuan province just two weeks ago. It does not recognize them as bishops.
The head of Hong Kong's Catholic church, Bishop John Tong, wrote a letter Wednesday to parishes in the diocese, reiterating that such ordinations are "illegitimate," AsiaNews reported.
Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in China where papal authority over the Roman Catholic Church is allowed.
Beijing severed ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope's authority.
Faithful on the mainland are allowed to worship only with the state-sanctioned church, which recognizes the pope as a spiritual leader but rejects his authority to appoint priests and bishops. A thriving underground following remains loyal to the Vatican.
AP writers Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.