BEIJING - China's government-backed "patriotic" Catholic Church began a three-day meeting Tuesday to choose new leaders, defying objections from the Vatican that the conclave has no formal standing with the true Catholic Church and further straining the Chinese government's increasingly fraught relationship with the Holy See.Read the rest here.
Pope Benedict XVI has told Catholic bishops not to attend the gathering, called the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, being held in Beijing. "This kind of organization completely contradicts the Church's hierarchy," said Anthony Lam, researcher with the Holy Spirit Study Unit, which is part of the Diocese of Hong Kong. "The Holy See has already informed all individual bishops not to attend this kind of meeting."
There were reports, however, that Chinese police have been dispatched to parishes searching for bishops and forcing them to attend. The Web site of the government's religious affairs office said late Tuesday that the conference was attended by 341 representatives, including 64 bishops, 162 priests, 24 nuns and 91 other church members.
A friar at the Jing county cathedral, in Hebei province, described one dramatic scene Monday night when scores of Chinese police officers dragged away Bishop Feng Xinmao after a six-hour standoff, with more than 30 priests encircling a police car with the bishop inside.
"Bishop Feng was kidnapped and forced to attend that meeting," said the friar, who was interviewed by telephone and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. After the bishop was allowed to attend the funeral of a priest who had died, the friar said police tried to take the bishop away but met a strong but peaceful protest from his congregation.
"There were so many priests, friars, nuns and church members," the friar said. "The officials called for more cars and for more police backup. Some of the nuns and church members cried because they didn't want the bishop to be taken away. In the end, the bishop had to go with them.