The Vatican said on Saturday that Chinese authorities had violated the terms stipulated in its provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops.
A statement released on Nov. 26 said that “the Holy See noted with surprise and regret” that Bishop John Peng Weizhao had been installed as an “auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,” a diocese that is not recognized by the Vatican.
Bishop Peng’s installation ceremony in Nanchang, China “did not occur in accordance with the spirit of dialogue … and what was stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops, on September 22, 2018,” it said.
The Vatican statement also noted reports that “prolonged and heavy pressure from local authorities” preceded the installation.
“The Holy See hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, remains awaiting appropriate communications on the matter from the authorities, and reaffirms its full readiness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest,” it said.
The boundaries of the “Diocese of Jiangxi” were drawn by Chinese authorities without Vatican approval.
Bishop Peng, on the other hand, was legitimately appointed by Pope Francis in 2014 and secretly ordained as an underground bishop of Yujiang — something for which he was arrested by Chinese authorities and held in custody for six months, according to Asia News.
The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association publicized on its official website that Bishop Peng’s installation ceremony occurred on Nov. 24 with “the consent of the Jiangxi Provincial Catholic Educational Affairs Committee and the approval of the Chinese Catholic bishops’ conference.”
The government-approved Catholic association said Bishop Peng swore an oath at the installation ceremony to “guide Catholicism to adapt to socialist society” and contribute to the “dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Bishop John Baptist Suguang Li of Nanching presided over the installation ceremony with about 200 people in attendance. Li serves as the vice president of the Chinese bishops’ conference, a group that has not received public recognition from the Holy See.
The installation ceremony took place one month after the Vatican renewed its deal with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops for an additional two years.
The provisional agreement between the Holy See and China was first signed in September 2018 and renewed for another two years in October 2020. The terms of the deal have not been made public.
Former bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, a vehement critic of the agreement, was convicted by a Hong Kong court and fined HK$4,000 the day following the installation. The Vatican has yet to make a statement on Zen’s conviction.