China ordains bishop, defies Vatican
China's state-run Catholic church ordained a bishop on Friday in defiance of the Vatican, authorities said as they dismissed protests from the Holy See as "rude and unreasonable".
The ordination of Father Yue Fusheng occurred in the northeastern city of Harbin on Friday morning, said Yang Yu, a spokesman for the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
The Holy See had warned this week it deemed the consecration illegitimate and vowed to excommunicate priests who participated.
But the government's State Administration for Religious Affairs hit back in a statement on its website on Friday.
"The attitude was extremely rude and unreasonable," it said. "We urge the Vatican to revoke its so-called excommunication threats and return to the proper position of dialogue.
"Continuing its practice of choosing and ordaining bishops is urgently needed for the Catholic Church in China to carry out its work of pastoral care, evangelisation and church management."
The state Catholic church has ordained more than 190 bishops, and many church members and clergymen support the practice, the statement said.
China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan, a rival to the communist regime in China.
And although Beijing and the Vatican have improved relations in recent years as the Chinese Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.
About 5.7 million Chinese belong to the state-run Catholic church, according to officials figures. Independent estimates say 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in unauthorised churches and are loyal to the pope.
Friday's ceremony was officiated by the CPCA head Bishop Fang Xingyao with the help of Liaoning Bishop Pei Junmin and three other clergymen, according to a news website of Heilongjiang province, of which Harbin is the capital.
About 400 officials, priests and laypeople attended.
Two Harbin priests who opposed the ordination were taken into custody one day earlier and released on Friday afternoon, one of the men, Father Zhang Xisheng, said in an email to AFP.
Yue, who was ordained as a priest in 1988, also serves as the deputy chairman of the CPCA and head of its provincial arm in Heilongjiang.