China Ordains First Bishop Since Inking Deal with Vatican

In this July 30, 2015 photo, parishioners of Lower Dafei Catholic Church hold an impromptu prayer vigil as they wait for Chinese police, security guards, and government workers to arrive and cut down their church's cross in Lower Dafei Village in Yongjia County in eastern China's Zhejiang Province. A massive …
Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

ROME — A representative of the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association ordained a new bishop Monday, the first to be ordained since the signing of last year’s Vatican-China deal regarding the naming of bishops.

Yao Shun, referred to as a “liturgical expert,” was consecrated as bishop of the diocese of Ulanqab in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at a ceremony concelebrated by some 120 priests and attended by more than 1,200 Catholic faithful.

Yao is the first bishop ordained in China since a provisional accord was signed in September 2018. The exact provisions of the agreement have never been disclosed, but the Vatican is understood to have ceded a certain amount of authority over the appointment of bishops to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Global Times, which represents the views of the Chinese Communist Party, called the 2018 Sino-Vatican accord a “landmark deal,” while underscoring that the ordaining bishop, Meng Qinglu, is deputy chairman of Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Bishop Meng told the Global Times Tuesday that it was the ordination ceremony was “solemn, harmonious and orderly,” while also mentioning that “the mandate of Pope Francis was mentioned” during the ritual as well.

Yao was nominated to be a bishop candidate in April, according to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association’s website, while “some bishops and faithful of China think that the Pope appointed Msgr. Yao long before the agreement,” according to AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

Meng said he was hopeful that the ordination of Bishop Yao could be a good start for Beijing and the Holy See to agree to ordain more bishops in the future. “This is also the expectation from the Catholic community in China,” Meng said.

As an episcopal motto, Bishop Yao chose Misericordes sicut pater (“Merciful as the Father,” the motto of the 2015-2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy). Yao said that he hopes to be merciful like Jesus and like the heavenly Father: “May the Scripture inspire us to have more wisdom and the Sacraments nourish our lives.”

Many clerics and faithful in China have refused to join the Catholic Patriotic Association, preferring to worship with members of the unofficial, underground Church faithful to Rome. The regime of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has cracked down on all unofficial religious practice in the country in its bid to bring religion under its full control.

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