HomeChurch & AsiaChinese bishop appointed to Shanghai without Vatican approval

Chinese bishop appointed to Shanghai without Vatican approval

Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen was appointed to lead the Diocese of Shanghai by the Council of Chinese Bishops

A Chinese bishop was installed Tuesday as the bishop of Shanghai without the Vatican’s approval, according to Asia News.

The report says Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen was appointed to lead the Diocese of Shanghai by the Council of Chinese Bishops, the state-sanctioned bishops’ conference.

Shen Bin is also the head of the Council of Chinese Bishops, Asia News reported.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Tuesday that “the Holy See had been informed a few days ago of the decision of the Chinese authorities to transfer [Shen Bin from Haimen to Shanghai] and learned from the media of the installation this morning.”

He said he had nothing to add to the Holy See’s assessment of the bishop’s transfer for the time being.

The Asia News report said the installation of Shen Bin as bishop of Shanghai happened without the Vatican’s approval and therefore in violation of the Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops.

Shen Bin had been bishop of Haimen since 2010, an appointment that was Vatican sanctioned. 

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Asia News said the Diocese of Shanghai has not had a Catholic bishop for 10 years.

In March, the Vatican’s foreign minister told EWTN News that the Vatican-China deal was “not the best deal possible” and that negotiations are underway to make the deal “work better.”

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for Relations with States, said that Holy See diplomats are “negotiating improvements” to the Holy See’s provisional agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, first signed in 2018.

China’s Xi Jinping assumed an unprecedented third term as president last month at a rubber-stamp parliamentary session of the National People’s Congress that unanimously voted for Xi in an election in which there was no other candidate.

The National People’s Congress in 2018 eliminated term limits for the presidency, granting Xi the possibility of lifelong rule, six months before the Holy See first signed its deal with Beijing.

Under Xi’s leadership, respect for human rights and religious freedom has deteriorated. Xi has come under mounting international condemnation for China’s brutal persecution of Uyghur Muslims in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, and state officials in different regions of China have removed crosses and demolished church buildings.

In November 2022, the Vatican said 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.

In the March interview with EWTN News, Gallagher confirmed that “there are negotiations underway for the appointment of other bishops.”

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