China’s state-controlled Catholic Church has announced Friday its plans to ordain at least 40 new bishops to help satisfy demand of dozens of China’s dioceses that currently are bishop-less.
The move, however, is likely to infuriate the Vatican and further strain ties between the worldwide Catholic Church and China’s state-controlled Church.
According to Xinhau news agency China's Catholic Church had agreed at a recent meeting to “strive to select and ordain bishops at these dioceses without delay.”
Deputy head of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Liu Bainian told AFP that the Church’s current bishops would “help various areas to select their own bishops.”
Bainian added: “It's the best opportunity to spread the Gospel in China.”
Relations between China’s Patriotic Catholic Association have a long history of tension. Diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China were cut 60 years ago when the Holy See gave recognition to the Nationalist Chinese regime in Taiwan as the legitimate government of China.
That move saw the Communist government suspend all diplomatic ties with the Vatican, and over recent years Beijing has been pushing the ordination of its own bishops.
This has gone directly against the wishes of the Vatican that insists Catholic ordinations can only go ahead with the blessing of Pope Benedict in Rome.
It is believed that there are approximately 5.7 million Catholics in China.