July 17th, 2011
05:55 AM ET
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
The Vatican stepped up its battle with the Chinese Catholic Church this weekend, excommunicating a bishop who was ordained during the week without the pope's permission.
Pope Benedict XVI "deplored" the "illicit" ordination of the Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang and expelled him from the church because he was "ordained without papal mandate," the Vatican said Saturday.
He was the second bishop ordained by Chinese Catholics without Vatican permission in the past month, and at least the third in the past year, as Beijing and Rome struggle over control of the Catholic Church in China.
Huang Bingzhang was ordained as Bishop of the Diocese of Shantou in southeast China on Thursday, the Vatican said, although Rome had asked him "on numerous occasions not to accept episcopal ordination."
The Vatican said some local bishops had been forced to take part in the ordination, but did not make clear how it knew that.
It issued a stern condemnation after the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained as bishop June 29, excommunicating him and saying he was "unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons."
It took a similar line last November, when Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained a bishop without authority from Rome.
At the time, China charged the Vatican with interfering with religious liberty in China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said then that the Chinese Catholic Church was independent and that any "intervention" constituted "restriction of freedom and nontolerance."
That was the first time since 2006 that China's Catholic Church was known to have anointed bishops without approval from Rome, the Vatican said in November.
The United States expressed serious concerned about religious freedom in China in its annual global report on the subject in November.
Despite some limited praise for Beijing, the State Department listed China as one of eight countries of "particular concern" on religious freedom.
It accused China of persecuting followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in western China.
Only Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are allowed to practice their religions legally in China, the State Department said.
The Vatican's excommunication of Huang Bingzhang came on the same day that President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Washington.
That meeting prompted China to accuse the United States of "hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" and interfering with China's internal affairs.
CNN's Hada Messia and Stephen Jiang contributed to this report.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.