New Beijing bishop "very good", Vatican says

The Vatican has still not received any official confirmation from the Chinese government concerning the appointment of Bishop Joseph Li Shan as new bishop of Beijing but Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone indicates that the cleric is a "well-suited" candidate.

The Washington Post characterised Cardinal Bertone's statement as further evidence of the Catholic Church's efforts to reach a compromise with China over the contentious nomination of bishops.

Cardinal Bertone said the Vatican still had not received any official word from the Chinese government about the naming of Bishop Joseph Li Shan, who was selected by a group of Chinese priests, nuns and lay people earlier this week.

"Normally, they enter into contact with the Holy See ... and ask approval. We hope this occurs," Bertone said at a news conference in Pieve di Cadore, in northern Italy.

But he said Li was a "very good, well-suited" candidate for the job. "This seems to us a positive sign," he said.

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.

Pope Benedict sent the letter to all Catholics in China on 30 June in a bid to unite them. In it, he praised the underground faithful but urged them to reconcile with followers in the official church. At the same time, he called the government-sanctioned China Patriotic Catholic Association "incompatible" with Catholic doctrine.

The Beijing appointment had been closely watched as an early indication of the government's reaction to Benedict's letter. The appointment of bishops has been the main stumbling block in resuming relations; China views papal appointments as interference in its internal affairs.

Benedict did not explicitly insist on that right in his letter, taking a more conciliatory approach by saying merely that the Vatican "would desire to be completely free to appoint bishops."

The Vatican would like to have a formula similar to one it has with Vietnam, another communist country, where the Vatican proposes a few names and the government selects one.

The ANSA news agency quoted the deputy chairman of the Patriotic Association as saying Li's nomination was not formalised yet, since China's bishops had yet to approve it.

New Beijing Bishop Praised by Vatican (Washington Post, 20/7/07)
Report: New Beijing bishop chosen, first appointment since Pope's letter to China Catholics (PR Inside, 20/7/07)

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

Chinese Catholics name new Beijing bishop {CathNews, 19/7/07}
"Tragic" Beijing bishop dies (CathNews, 23/4/07)
Patriotic Church bishop critically ill (AsiaNews, 20/4/07)

23 Jul 2007