Vatican Appoints Third Chinese Bishop In Less Than A Week, Signaling Shift Toward Beijing 

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By Matthew Santucci

The Vatican announced on Wednesday the appointment of Father Peter Wu Yishun as the bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Shaowu (Minbei), the third appointment of a bishop in China in just a week.

According to the announcement, Wu was nominated as bishop of Shaowu, which is situated in the southeastern coastal province of Fujian, on Dec. 16, 2023, “within the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.”

The Mass of episcopal consecration was celebrated in the Church of Chengguan in the district of Jianyang in the city of Nanping and celebrated by Joseph Li Shan, the archbishop of Beijing, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), and vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

The Mass was also attended by three other bishops, 80 priests, and approximately 360 religious and laypeople, according to an official statement from the state-run Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC).

The statement went on to note that Wu was “elected as the bishop-designate of the Northern Fujian Diocese on Jan. 18, 2022.”

Wu was born on Dec. 7, 1964, and received his theological formation at Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai. He was ordained to the priesthood on Aug. 15, 1992, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, for the Diocese of Xiamen.

Following his ordination Wu served as a parish priest in the city of Nanping and as the head of the apostolic prefectures of Shaowu and Jian’ou.

According to a report by the Vatican Fides News Agency, in November 2021, Father Wu spoke at a seminar in support of the government’s program of religious sinicization, saying “the Catholic faith and local Chinese culture have truly achieved ‘harmony’ and mutual integration, and this ‘harmony’ represents the fulcrum and suggests the right direction for ‘sinicization’ of Catholicism.”

The announcement of Wu’s appointment comes amid an unprecedented swiftness on the part of the Holy See, as he is the third bishop appointed in mainland China in less than a week, signaling a rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China.

On Jan. 25, Father Thaddeus Wang Yuesheng was consecrated as bishop of Zhengzhou, bringing an end to a 70-year-long vacancy in the diocese to an end.

Several days later, on Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Holy See announced the suppression of the Apostolic Prefecture of Yiduxian to create the new Diocese of Weifang, corresponding with the administrative boundaries of the Chinese state. The press release noted that the pope established the diocese on April 20, 2023, “in the desire to promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good.”

The press release went on to report that Father Anthony Sun Venjun, 53, was ordained as the first bishop of the newly created diocese on the same day. 

These recent developments signal a rapprochement in Sino-Vatican relations after Joseph Shen Bin was unilaterally appointed by Chinese authorities as the bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 — thereby violating the terms of the accord — and retroactively approved by Pope Francis in July 2023. It was the second unauthorized appointment by Chinese authorities in 2023. 

The Sino-Vatican agreement was renewed for the first time in 2020 and again in 2022. It is expected to be renewed in October 2024.

CNA

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

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