Two Chinese bishops recognised by the Holy See were ordained on the mainland on Wednesday, the latest sign of improving ties between Beijing and the Vatican after years of hostility.
Father Joseph Tang Yuange, 53, was ordained as bishop reportedly amid a heavy police presence at Pinganqiao Cathedral in Chengdu, Sichuan province during the feast of St Andrew. Journalists were not allowed to enter.
Also yesterday, Father Wang Xiaoxun was ordained as coadjutor bishop in the Ankang diocese in Shanxi province.
“I see the compassion, tolerance and great love of the church and the understanding of the Holy See towards the churches in China,” Tang was quoted as saying by the Union of Catholic Asian News. Tang added he planned to organise more training sessions on spiritual studies.
The ceremony was chaired by Bishop Fang Xingyao, chairman of the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, in the presence of Fathers Luo Xuegang from the Yibin diocese, He Zeqing of the Wanzhou diocese in Chongqing, Chen Gongao of Nanchong in Jiangxi and Xiao Zejiang of Guiyang in Guizhou province, who are all jointly recognised by the Holy See and Beijing.
An excommunicated bishop, Lei Shiyin of Leshan in Sichuan, also made his way into the ordination, the report said.
“There is not one Father, nun or member of the church who wants him [Lei] present and have done a lot to resist his presence,” a source was quoted as saying, adding there was even a protest banner erected but it was removed.
Tang was born into a Catholic family in Sichuan in 1963, and went on to study in the provincial Catholic seminary between 1984 and 1988. He has served in Sichuan and Hainan.
Tang was voted bishop-designate of Chengdu in May 2014 during a government-sponsored election and was finally approved by the Holy See last year.
In Chengdu, there are 20 priests, nine nuns and one seminarian serving about 100,000 members of the church.
In August, Cardinal John Tong Hon, the head of Hong Kong’s Catholic Church, revealed that the Vatican and Beijing had reached an initial agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops on the mainland in an effort to secure a breakthrough in bilateral ties.
The Vatican severed diplomatic ties with China in 1951, two years after the communists came to power. Beijing oversees more than 12 million Catholics through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. China-Vatican relations have been strained by conflicts over the appointment of Catholic bishops and the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
With Pope Francis’ support, China and the Vatican restarted a political dialogue in June 2014.