Chinese Catholics name new Beijing bishop

State-sanctioned Catholic clergy in Beijing has named a new bishop for their diocese - the first appointment since the pope sent a well-received letter to Catholics of China urging them to unite under his authority.

His election will be confirmed by the "Council of bishops", taking over the post left vacant by the death of Michele Fu Tieshan, Patriotic Archbishop of Beijing, who died in April or maybe even earlier, AsiaNews reports.

As president of the Patriotic Association, the organism by which the Communist Party controls the Catholic Church in the country, Bishop Fu Tieshan always sided with the government and against the Holy See. On his death he was given a state burial, attended by numerous political figures and few faithful.

The report says that the procedure for his appointment was formally "independent", in so far as he was elected by an assembly comprising priests, nuns and lay people and not nominated by the pope.

The British Guardian adds that while the pope did not name him, Li Shan was apparently on a list of names that the Vatican had indicated it would not object to.

Still, the appointment contravenes the traditional practice in which the pope names bishops. Benedict did not explicitly insist on that right in his letter on 30 June to the Catholic faithful in China, taking a more conciliatory approach by saying merely that the Vatican "would desire to be completely free to appoint bishops."

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in the government-controlled churches, which recognise the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations that are not registered with the authorities.

The new Bishop of Beijing is elected (AsiaNews, 18/7/07)
New Beijing Bishop Chosen (The Guardian, 18/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Beijing diocese (Catholic Hierarchy)

"Tragic" Beijing bishop dies (CathNews, 23/4/07)
Patriotic Church bishop critically ill (AsiaNews, 20/4/07)

19 Jul 2007