China Grounds Bishops

St. Francis Cathedral in Xi'an, China.
St. Francis Cathedral in Xi'an, China. (photo: CNS)

The Chinese government won’t allow Catholic bishops to come to this month’s World Synod of Bishops.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said today that China has indicated that travel requests for the bishops have been rejected, Reuters reported.

However, bishops from Hong Kong and Macao will be allowed to attend the synod, which begins Sunday.

“[There were] talks with the Chinese authorities to see if other bishops from mainland China could come,” Father Lombardi said. “It was clear that there would be no agreement and they won’t come.”

Relations between the Vatican and China are complex.

The government-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is not in communion with Rome, exists alongside the unapproved “underground” Catholic Church, which accepts the Church’s authority.

But in practice, most bishops consecrated in recent years by the Patriotic Association have obtained approval of their appointments from the Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter to Chinese Catholics in May 2007.

In the letter, he declared that all Chinese Catholics form one body.

Said the Holy Father, “The whole of the Church which is in China is called to live and to manifest this unity in a richer spirituality of communion, so that, taking account of the complex concrete situations in which the Catholic community finds itself, she may grow in harmonious hierarchical communion.”

— Tom McFeely