Vatican embroiled in a new dispute with China.
Rome, Nov. 20 -- The supreme head of world's Roman Catholic Church- Pope Benedict XVI, has convened a meeting of the Sacred College of Cardinals at the Vatican to discuss religious freedom, wide-spread priestly sex scandals and a new dispute with China over an unsanctioned ordination that threatens the already-strained Vatican - Beijing relations.
Pope Benedict XVI summoned the cardinals for a day of reflection ahead of Saturday's ceremony to create 24 new cardinals whose primary task is to elect a new pope when the Holy See falls vacant.
As he arrived on Friday for the meeting, Hong Kong's outspoken Joseph Cardinal Zen said China's planned ordination of a bishop who doesn't have the approval of Holy Father was illegitimate, shameful and uncivilized.
The Vatican warned China on Thursday that efforts at reconciliation would be set back if bishops loyal to the pope are forced to attend the ordination. China said Friday the ordination was going ahead.
Meanwhile Vice Chairman of China's state-backed church-the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Liu Bainian said Friday that the ordination was going ahead but that the presence of other bishops at the ceremony was voluntary.
As he arrived Friday for the meeting, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate of democracy and religious freedom in China, sharply rebuked China for proceeding with the ordination.
"It is really shameful, such an attempt to make another illegitimate ordination. It's incredible," Zen told The Associated Press. "It's against the whole civilization of today."
Communist China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and worship is allowed only in state-backed churches, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to the Vatican.
In recent years under Pope Benedict XVI relations have improved. Disputes over appointments in China's official church have been avoided by quietly conferring on candidates, leading to several ordinations of bishops with the Holy See's blessing.
However, Fr. Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde does not have the pope's approval.
Other issues being discussed Friday include the sex abuse scandal, the Vatican's offer to let Anglicans convert en-masse to Catholicism, relations with other Christians and the state of the liturgy in the church.
With such a full agenda and some 150 cardinals taking part, no major developments are expected.
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