VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican and the government-backed Chinese Catholic Church have agreed for the first time on the nomination of a bishop in a sign of warming relations after decades of strain.
The Chinese-backed Church ordained Joseph Xing Wenzhi as an auxiliary bishop of Shanghai on Tuesday in an appointment that was approved by the Holy See, according to AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency specialising in China.
China does not allow Catholics to recognise the authority of the Pope. Instead, they must belong to state-backed patriotic associations if they want to worship openly.
The communist government has repeatedly refused to allow the Vatican to appoint bishops officially, saying this would amount to interference in internal affairs.
That led to a two-tiered Catholicism in China, with pro-Vatican priests and bishops working underground while the pro-government clerics held the official posts. The Vatican officially has not recognised the pro-government church.
Asianews said Xing could eventually replace the elderly bishop of Shanghai, Aloysius Jin Luxian, the pro-government prelate who ordained the new bishop on Tuesday.
Last week, the Vatican’s foreign minister suggested the chances of normalising relations with China were growing, saying there were "no insurmountable difficulties".
China has insisted the Vatican must break relations with Taiwan before it can forge diplomatic ties.
The Vatican estimates it has about 8 million followers in China, compared with about 5 million who follow the state-backed association. [Source]
Or maybe not.
SHANGHAI (AFP) – China says the appointment of an auxiliary bishop in Shanghai had not been approved by the
"He was chosen by our Shanghai Catholic community and was approved by the Chinese Catholic Bishops College," said an official with the Shanghai Religious Affairs Bureau, who refused to be named.
"It has nothing to do with the Vatican."
Xing, a 42-year-old Chinese priest, was made auxiliary bishop in a ceremony led by Shanghai Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, the representative of the government-backed Catholic church who at the age of 89 is giving up many of his duties, officials at the religious affairs bureau said.
Xing, who becomes bishop in the official Chinese church, reportedly announced during the ceremony he had been nominated by the Holy See, suggesting that he received full backing from the Pope. [Source]