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China installs bishop without Vatican approval [News Analysis]

April 04, 2023

The Chinese government has installed a new Bishop of Shanghai without Vatican approval, in a clear violation of the secret accord between Rome and Beijing.

Bishop Shen Bin, who had been Bishop of Haimen, was installed in Shanghai on April 4, having been named by the Council of Chinese Bishops—a body that is not recognized by the Holy See—of which Bishop Shen Bin himself is the chairman.

Vatican spokesmen said that they were taken by surprise by the “unilateral” move, having only heard about the appointment “a few days ago” through media reports.

Although the terms of the Vatican-Beijing agreement have never been disclosed, it is generally understood that new Catholic bishops would be selected by the Holy See from a list of candidates approved by Chinese authorities. Evidently Beijing either did not submit Bishop Shen’s name to the Vatican for approval, or ignored the Vatican’s negative response.

The secret accord was explained by Vatican officials as a means of ensuring that the Catholic faithful of China would be led by bishops in communion with the Holy See. But the agreement has not produced new appointments to ease an acute shortage of Catholic bishops in China. Dozens of Chinese dioceses are currently without bishops, or are led by bishops well past retirement age.

The installation of Bishop Shen Bin, in fact, marks the first time since 2021 that a new bishop has taken over the leadership of a Chinese diocese.

The illicit appointment in Shanghai follows another violation of the accord last November, when Chinese authorities transferred Bishop John Peng Weizhao of Yujiang to become an auxiliary of the Nanching archdiocese—also without Vatican approval. The Vatican expressed “surprise and regret” at that move.

In March of this year, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s top foreign-affairs official, acknowledged that the secret agreement with China is “not the best deal possible.” He said that the Vatican is now “negotiating improvements” on the accord. The agreement, which was originally signed in 2018 for a two-year period, has been twice renewed—in 2020 and 2022—for additional two-year terms.


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  • Posted by: rfr46 - Apr. 10, 2023 11:36 AM ET USA

    A child could have predicted this. The barque of Peter is being piloted by fools and incompetents. How do we ever recover from this travesty in China? What should happen to the authors of this disaster? Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon. In the meantime, how do I explain to our non-observant son and non-Catholic daughter-in-law they should follow the Catholic Church? Thanks, Jorge!

  • Posted by: mhains8491 - Apr. 04, 2023 6:59 PM ET USA

    This is what happens when you dance with the devil. Pope Francis and thus in the Vatican responsible for the betrayal of loyal Cat5holics in China, have been played as fools by the Communists. Hide the terms of the deal as much as you want Pope Francis, its rotten fruits are there for all to see.