Vatican speaks out against 'illegitimate' Chinese bishops

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Thursday condemned the participation of "legitimate" bishops in the ordination of state-sanctioned "illegitimate" bishops in China as part of an ongoing dispute.

A commission established by Pope Benedict XVI meeting this week concluded that state-appointed bishops "usurp a power which the Church has not conferred upon them" by participating in Catholic religious life in China.

It also said the confusion caused by the participation of "legitimate" bishops in "illegitimate" ceremonies had "disturbed" the faithful and called on any such bishops to ask for forgiveness from the Vatican.

The claim of the state-sanctioned authorities "to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community persists," the Vatican commission said in a statement.

It also drew attention to clergymen "who are detained or who are suffering unjust limitations on the performance of their mission."

Ties between the Vatican and China have declined after Chinese authorities began ordaining bishops from the state-sanctioned church starting in 2010.

Chinese Catholics number 5.7 million according to official Chinese data and 12 million according to independent sources.

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