The Vatican has sent an urgent note to the Chinese diocese of Harbin in hopes of avoiding a looming episcopal ordination without papal approval. Catholic doctrine states that the appointment of bishops can come only from the pope.
The note, send by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome, warned that the episcopal ordination, without the permission of the pope, will cause "strong disunity in the Catholic community in China." The Catholic community in China is divided between 'the patriotic church' which is controlled by the government and appoints bishops loyal to the Party system and the underground Catholic church which is faithful to Rome but is unable to practice its faith openly.
The Washington Post reports that China’s officially atheistic communist government ordered Chinese Catholics to cut ties with Rome more than five decades ago, and Beijing and the Vatican have no formal relations. It also reports that China is unimpressed with the Vatican's threats of "excommunication" and division of the church.