China's state-controlled Catholic church plans to ordain at least seven more bishops, a top church official said Friday, after a series of such ordinations worsened already tense Vatican ties.
Liu Bainian, deputy head of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), said the new bishops would be ordained "on an auspicious day", without giving further details.
The Vatican has been locked in a bitter struggle with Beijing over control of the church in China. It says recent ordinations by the state-run church were carried out without papal approval and are illegitimate.
The latest move came after the CPCA ordained Huang Bingzhang as bishop in the city of Shantou in the southern province of Guangdong.
China's 5.7 million Catholics are increasingly caught between showing allegiance to the CPCA, or to the Pope as part of an "underground" Church.
Illustrating this, three bishops loyal to the Pope went missing or were detained recently in an apparent attempt to force them to take part in Huang's state-sanctioned ordination, their diocese members told AFP.
At least three other bishops were ordained in China this year, the official China Daily newspaper said.
The issue has angered the Vatican, which has not had formal diplomatic ties with Beijing since 1951.
Earlier in July, Rome excommunicated an "illegitimate" Chinese bishop and in May the Pope called on all bishops to "refuse to take the path of separation" in spite of "pressure" from the communist authorities.
But China has ignored these appeals. Last month, it announced that it would try to ordain at least 40 bishops "without delay".