Pope Francis has recently named three new bishops in China, a development seen as a testament to the effectiveness of the controversial 2018 Vatican-China deal.

On January 31, Bishop Peter Wu Yishun was ordained as the head of the Apostolic Prefecture of Shaowu in Fujian Province. His appointment, announced by the Vatican, is the latest in a series of nominations made under the 2018 agreement aimed at bridging the divide within China’s 12 million-strong Catholic community.

Earlier, on January 29, the Vatican confirmed Bishop Anthony Sun Wenjun’s consecration for the newly formed Diocese of Weifang. This appointment marked the first creation of a new diocese in China since Mao’s Communist revolution in 1949. The establishment of the Weifang Diocese, according to Vatican News, aligns with efforts to “promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good.”

In addition, on January 25, Bishop Tadeus Wang Yuesheng was ordained to lead the Zhengzhou diocese in Henan province. His appointment is the first agreed upon by both the Vatican and China since the 2022 renewal of the 2018 provisional agreement.

Despite some unilateral appointments by Beijing last year, Pope Francis has maintained that he holds the final say in the bishop appointment process. The recent ordinations indicate a possible new understanding between Rome and Beijing, although disagreements over diocesan borders and the role of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association continue.

The 2018 deal, renewed twice and kept confidential, aims to unite the official church and an underground church loyal to Rome. Critics have expressed concerns over its impact on religious freedom and the Vatican’s stance on human rights in China.

These recent developments suggest a gradual reconciliation between the Holy See and China, a longstanding goal for Vatican officials. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed hope for the naming of a permanent resident papal representative to Beijing, indicating further steps towards deepening diplomatic relations.

Pray for Catholics in China!


Photo credit: Yuriy Boyko_Ukraine / Shutterstock.com
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