Communist China, Pope jointly ordain Catholic bishop for the first time
The joint consecration of Yao Shun, is a sign of changing ties between China – where religious organisations and heads have to be approved by the CPC – and the Holy See amid intermittent crackdown on Christianity.Updated: Aug 28, 2019 18:04 IST
A bishop has been jointly ordained by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Pope for the first time following a provisional agreement between Beijing and the Vatican signed last September.
The joint consecration of Yao Shun from Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in northern China, is a sign of changing ties between China – where religious organisations and heads have to be approved by the CPC – and the Holy See amid intermittent crackdown on Christianity.
The deal last September allowed the Vatican to have a say in the appointment of bishops in the churches run by the CPC.
It could prove to be an important moment in ties between the two, which have been fraught since the 1950s, and further complicated because of the Vatican’s relationship with Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway region.
The Vatican press office confirmed the consecration. “The Episcopal Ordination of H.E. Mgr. Antonio Yao is the first to take place in the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China signed in Beijing on 22nd September 2018”, it said.
“Antonio Yao Shun was ordained bishop of the diocese of Jining, in the northern province of Inner Mongolia where about 70,000 Catholics live, by Paolo Meng Qinglu of the diocese of Hohhot,” it added.
The Vatican News reported that at present all the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the Pope. “Hundreds of priests and religious from the surrounding areas were present at the ceremony,” the report added.
The five religions approved in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism but practising them is restricted.
“Catholicism and Protestantism have 6 million and 38 million followers in China, respectively, with 8,000 and 57,000 clerical personnel,” said a white paper titled ‘China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief’ in April this year.
The white paper added China has 6,000 Catholic churches and places of assembly spread across 98 dioceses, and 60,000 Protestant churches and places of assembly.
The same policy paper had said: “China adheres to the principle of independence and self-management in religious affairs, and that the principle is a historic choice made by Chinese religious believers.”
“Religious groups and religious affairs are not subject to control by foreign countries; this principle is enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China,” the document said.
In a speech in March, Xu Xiaohong head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, -- which is approved by the government and not recognised by the Vatican -- said there were many problems with Christianity in the country, including “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places”.