VATICAN CITY The Vatican condemned China on Wednesday for naming a bishop without the pope's approval, calling the episode a "painful wound" hampering dialogue between the Holy See and Beijing.
Pope Benedict learned with "deep regret" about the November 20 ordination in Chengde of Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai, a member of the state-backed church that does not recognize the pontiff, the Vatican said in a statement.
It said various Catholic bishops loyal to the pope had come under pressure to attend the ordination ceremony.
"It is known that, in recent days, various bishops were subjected to pressures and restrictions on their freedom of movement, with the aim of forcing them to participate and confer the episcopal ordination," it said.
"Such constraints, carried out by Chinese government and security authorities, constitute a grave violation of freedom of religion and conscience," it said.
The Vatican added it would conduct an investigation into the position of each of the bishops involved.
Catholics in China are divided between one Church that recognizes the pope and his authority to name bishops and a state-backed "patriotic association" which names its own bishops.
Relations between the two had been seen to be improving, but the Vatican said Chinese authorities had decided to go ahead with the ordination of Guo despite its repeated warnings, hampering the dialogue that Pope Benedict had sought to establish with Beijing.
"The authorities decided to proceed unilaterally to the detriment of the atmosphere of respect that had been created with great effort with the Holy See and with the Catholic Church," it said.
The Vatican wants to establish diplomatic relations with China but Beijing says the Holy See must first sever ties with Taiwan, which China considers a renegade territory.
Taiwan has full diplomatic relations with only some 20 states.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Jan Harvey)