Pope Yields to China on New Bishop

Government filled Shanghai post months ago, despite agreement with Vatican
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 15, 2023 3:25 PM CDT
Pope Accepts Bishop Named By China
Pope Francis squints at the crowd at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 28.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis has given in to China's unilateral appointment of a new bishop in Shanghai, formally recognizing the government's installation of Bishop Shen Bin three months after the fact. The Vatican said Saturday that Francis had appointed Shen as bishop of Shanghai, transferring him from Haimen. The announcement came after the Holy See conceded in April that it had learned of Shen's appointment to lead the Catholic Church in Shanghai from media accounts, the AP reports. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Francis decided to accept China's unilateral appointment for the "greater good" of the faithful in Shanghai.

But Parolin made clear that China's move had violated the "spirit of collaboration" outlined in a 2018 accord between the Holy See and Beijing on bishop appointments. In comments to Vatican media, Parolin said Francis approved Shen's appointment to allow the bishop to lead his flock and to "heal the canonical irregularity" created by Beijing's unilateral transfer in April, which he said occurred without the Holy See's involvement. He said he hoped future appointments would be made according to the letter and spirit of consensus called for in the accord. "We need to together prevent disharmonious situations that create disagreements and misunderstandings even within Catholic communities," Parolin said. "The good implementation of the agreement is one of the means to do so, together with sincere dialogue."

China and the Vatican haven't had diplomatic relations since 1951, following the Communists' rise to power and the expulsion of foreign priests. The 2018 accord paved the way for future nominations, but China has repeatedly violated it amid a crackdown on religious freedoms. Full details of the 2018 agreement were never made public, but Francis has claimed he has final say on bishop appointments. Beijing has long insisted that it must approve such appointments as a matter of its national sovereignty. Since the diplomatic break, Catholics in China have been divided between a state-sanctioned church, the Patriotic Catholic Association, and an underground church loyal to the pontiff. Estimates of the total number of Chinese Catholics run between 6 million and 12 million, per the AP.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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