Pope Benedict publicly approved the appointment of the new bishop installed today in Beijing, bringing some warmth to long-frozen relations between the Holy See and China’s government-controlled church, Reuters reports. In a critical test for future ties, Joseph Li Shan took over the highest-profile diocese in the atheist nation, which severed formal ties with the Vatican in 1951.
The pope has signaled interest in a thaw, most recently in an open letter urging unification. Rome has insisted it must pick future bishops, though it would consider government counsel. Bettering relations is a two-way street: Chinese Catholics do honor the Pope, but didn't invoke his name during today's ceremony.