The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association announced this week the ordination of a new Catholic bishop for the Diocese of Qingdao in the country’s Shandong province.
A report on Catholic Church in China said Bishop Thomas Chen Tianhao was ordained in the cathedral of Qingdao Diocese on Nov. 23.
Bishop Fang Xingyao of the Diocese of Linyi, chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, officiated the ordination, the report said.
“In response to the requirements of normalized epidemic prevention and control in the religious field, the ceremony adhered to the principle of simplicity and solemnity,” added the report.
At least 21 priests and more than 200 nuns and lay people from dioceses in Shandong province attended the ceremony.
The Vatican has not announced any appointment of a bishop for Qingdao in recent weeks.
The controversial Vatican-China agreement, first signed on Sept. 22, 2018 and renewed last month, concerns the nomination of bishops in China.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, has said that the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” in China.
Catholics had been divided for decades between the state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and illegal underground Catholic communities that remained in communion with Rome.
When the Vatican announced the renewal of its two-year agreement with China on Oct. 22, an article in the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano lauded the results of the agreement.
It also said that “processes for new episcopal appointments are underway, some at an early stage, others at an advanced stage.”
But the deal has also divided church leaders inside and outside of China with the most vocal critic being Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong.
Asia News said Chinese sources indicated that Chen was first elected and appointed bishop of Qingdao on Nov. 19, 2019.
As bishop of Qingdao, Chen would succeed Bishop Giuseppe Li Mingshu, who died in June 2018. Bishop Li had served as bishop of Qingdao with Holy See approval since 2000.
Bishop Chen was born in December 1962 in Pingdu in Shandong province.
He graduated from the Catholic Holy Spirit Seminary in Shandong in December 1989 and was ordained priest in the same year. He served in the Diocese of Qingdao.
In 1998, he was named director of the Qingdao Patriotic Catholic Association and in 2010, he served as member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
In 2012, Bishop Chen served as deputy director of the Shandong Provincial Two Catholic Societies. On Nov. 19, 2019, he was elected as bishop-designate of Qingdao.
The new bishop is known as a loyal state official when it comes to religious policy.
In 2019, he led a Shandong Province standing committee meeting to “study the spirit” of a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping in which the achievements of the United Front Work Department were celebrated.