Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod

In what could be a promising move for Vatican-China relations, Pope Benedict XVI has named four mainland Chinese bishops as members of the October Synod of Bishops.

CLICK HERECatholic World News reports that Church sources in Rome said two of the bishops belong to the government-approved Catholic Church in China, while the other two have been members of the underground church that has rejected official government ties. None are listed in the Vatican's official pontifical yearbook.

The appointments were announced without comment by the Vatican yesterday. Those named to the synod were:

-- Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai. The government-recognised bishop, born in 1916, recently consecrated an auxiliary bishop who is expected to become his successor, with the blessing of Rome and the approval of the Chinese government.

-- Bishop Anthony Li Du'an of Xi'an, 78, vice president of the bishops' council of the government-approved or "official" Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in China. He served three prison terms in the 1950s and '60s and is a much-respected figure by all Chinese Catholics. When he ordained an auxiliary bishop of Xi'an in July, a source in Rome said the auxiliary had the approval of the Vatican.

-- Bishop Luke Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang, who has been a leader of one of China's strongest clandestine Catholic communities. The bishop, believed to be 85, has been arrested at least once by Chinese authorities in recent years.

-- Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, 47, another pastor of the underground church, whose arrest in 2004 brought a strong Vatican protest.

The appointments to the 2-23 October synod were seen as a potential breakthrough, in part because the full spectrum of the Catholic community in China would be represented at the Rome assembly for the first time.

"I'm very happy Pope Benedict has invited bishops from both the 'official' and 'unofficial' branches of the Catholic community, illustrating that, for the pope, the church in China is one," said Fr Bernardo Cervellera, head of the missionary news agency AsiaNews.

"The pope understands the importance of China and the importance of the church in China," Fr Cervellera said.

Fr Cervellera, who has followed events in China for many years, said it could be presumed that all four of the Chinese bishops had reconciled with the Vatican. He said the pope apparently was trying to show the Chinese government that it had nothing to fear from close ties between Rome and local churches.

Fr Cervellera cautioned, however, that it remained to be seen whether the Chinese government would allow the bishops to attend.

Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (Catholic News Service 8/9/05)

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9 Sep 2005