'War' Erupts Between Vatican, China Catholics
It's a battle for control over China's estimated 14M Catholics
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2011 5:12 AM CDT
Cardinal Joseph Zen has called the appointment of Chinese bishops without Vatican permission "war."   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – With the Chinese Catholic Patriot Association continuing to appoint bishops without Rome's approval, relations between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party have plunged to their lowest point in years, threatening to become an all-out spiritual war, reports the Telegraph. “At the moment, it’s a war,” says Hong Kong-based Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the highest-ranking Vatican representative in China. The Chinese association most recently appointed Joseph Huang Bingzhang bishop of Shantou last week without Vatican approval, and he was immediately excommunicated in retaliation.

The two forces are battling for control of 6 million official Catholics in China and another estimated 8 million in underground churches. The cardinal, who has been outspoken about human rights in China, wrote an open letter to Chinese leader Hu Jintao blaming “rogue civil servants” and “the scum of the church” for “forcing mainland bishops, priests, and lay people to do things that go against their conscience.”