The Vatican has delared that a new Chinese bishop reportedly named in Peking last month cannot be considered legitimate because he was elected without the consent of the pope,
According to reports of international news services and the official New China news agency, Msgr. Michael Fu Tieshan, 47, was elected by a government sponsored group called the National Association of Patriotic Catholics.
Fu, a priest in Peking's only functioning Catholic Chruch, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, would replace Bishop Wang Ji-ting, who died last year,
The Rev. Pierfranco D. Pastore, a Vatican press spokesman, noted that the Vatican has been unable to confirm reports of the election and is therefore uncertain as to "what really occurred;"
Nevertheless, Pastore read a Vatican statement which maintained that in principle, "there is no doubt that the doctrine of the church and canonical discipline do not allow considering legitimate, in any cases, a nomination which occurs without the consent and approval of the Holy See, as well as an episcopal ordination put into effect without the mandate of the Holy Father."
The Vatican and China broke off relations in 1949, the year the Communists came to power in that country. Before the revolution, an estimated 3 million Chinese were Catholics. There were some 10 bishops, mostly of Chinese origin.
After the revolution the church was purged and Communist authorities formally established the National Association of Patriotic Catholics in 1957, using it as a base for what they termed the "Patriotic (Catholic) Church."
Between April 13, 1958, and Nov. 15, 1959, 26 bishops were consecrated validly but illicitly -- illicit because they lacked permission or approval of the Holy See. By January 1962, a total of 42 bishops were consecrated in this manner.