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China reportedly breaks agreement with Vatican again

CHINA

Antoine Mekary | Aleteia

I.Media - published on 04/04/23

A bishop has been transferred to Shanghai, apparently without approval from Rome. This marks the 2nd time China has ignored its agreement with the Vatican.

Bishop Shen Bin has become the new bishop of Shanghai, AsiaNews and other news websites in China reported April 4. He is the head of the Chinese Council of Bishops, which is not recognized by the Holy See. His appointment to Shanghai by this body did not reportedly come with the the endorsement of Rome, which means that once again the agreement established between China and the Holy See in 2018 has been ignored. 

“The Holy See was informed a few days ago of the decision of the Chinese authorities to transfer Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen to the Diocese of Shanghai and learned this morning through the media of this transfer,” said the director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, when questioned by journalists on April 4. He did not give further details. 

According to Asia News, Bishop Shen Bin, until then bishop of Haimen, a diocese north of Shanghai in Jiangsu province, was installed without the approval of Rome. “Sources told AsiaNews that the appointment is ‘unilateral,’ without papal approval,” the agency said.

This would be the second violation in just over four months of the agreement on the appointment of bishops established between Rome and Beijing. Signed in 2018 and subsequently renewed in October 2020 and 2022, this agreement stipulates that the choice of new Chinese bishops must be validated by the Holy See and the Chinese authorities.

On November 26, the Holy See said it had “learned with surprise and regret” of the installation ceremony of Bishop Peng Weizhao of Yujiang (Jiangxi Province) as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi, “a diocese not recognized by the Holy See.” In its statement, which unusually expressed disagreement with Beijing, Rome added: “The Holy See hopes that such episodes will not be repeated. 

An already problematic diocese

The installation of Bishop Shen Bin in Shanghai comes almost 10 years after the installation of Bishop Taddheus Ma Daqin, who was ordained auxiliary bishop of the diocese with the agreement of the Pope (then Benedict XVI) and Beijing. But after his ordination Mass on July 7, 2012, he said he wanted to leave his position with the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, the Chinese Communist regime’s body responsible for overseeing the local church. He was immediately placed under house arrest. 

Four years later, Bishop Taddheus Ma Daqin was said to have reversed his decision. However, he was unable to resume his office. In 2017, the Shanghai diocese was able to ordain four Catholic priests for the first time since 2012. But at the time, the ordination ceremony was presided over by the bishop of the neighboring diocese of Haimen, Bishop Shen Bin. 

The city of Shanghai is one of the most populous cities in the world, with nearly 25 million inhabitants.

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