Shen Bin new bishop of Shanghai: 'unilateral' appointment, Vatican agreement broken

The investiture comes with a letter from the Council of Chinese Bishops, a body not recognised by the Holy See and linked to the Communist Party. The dismay of the faithful. The new pastor promises to continue with the "sinicisation" of Catholicism in China. Analysts: The Holy See wanted the return of Msgr Joseph Xing Wenzhi.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Msgr.Shen Bin is the new bishop of Shanghai. As revealed yesterday by AsiaNews, the installation ceremony took place today. The letter of appointment is from the Council of Chinese Bishops, of which Mgr Shen is the head. The body is not recognised by the Holy See and is strictly subject to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The origin of the installation would indicate that the (official) Chinese Church did not agree on the choice with the Vatican.

Vatican sources have told AsiaNews that the appointment is "unilateral", without papal approval. Indirect confirmation also comes from the Catholic faithful in China, who have expressed sadness at the installation, which they say came without the pope's mandate: a source of great upset for the Catholic community in Shanghai.

According to the Sino-Vatican agreement of 2018, later renewed in October 2020 and 2022, the choice of the new Chinese bishops should be shared by the Holy See and the Beijing authorities.

In November, the Vatican had denounced the violation of the agreement by the Chinese authorities with the appointment of Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Jiangxi. Now the issue of the diocese of Haimen (Jiangsu), of which Msgr. Shen was the pastor - an ordination that came with papal recognition in 2010 - is also open.

As circulated on the Chinese messaging site WeChat, Msgr. Shen said today that he will continue the tradition of "patriotism and love" for the Church in Shanghai. In a strong reminder of the Party's dictates, he emphasised that he will adhere to the principle of independence and self-administration, and will adhere to efforts to 'sinicise' Catholicism in China.

Chinese faithful have claimed that Bishop Shen is not liked in Shanghai. Some accuse him of asking for a large cash donation when he ordained priests in the diocese. The incident dates back to June 2021: there were five ordinands, but the government rejected one (a deacon).

In fact, the bishopric of Shanghai had been vacant for 10 years. The auxiliary bishop recognised by the Vatican and the government, Bishop Ma Daqin, is under house arrest in Sheshan Seminary for daring to resign from the Patriotic Association immediately after his episcopal ordination. Although he later returned to the CCP-dependent body, the government did not want to recognise him as bishop of the diocese.

The Agreement between China and the Vatican has not only failed to stop the persecution of Catholics, especially unofficial (underground) ones, but also does not seem to give any guarantees on the bishops' selection front.

According to some analysts, the Vatican wanted Msgr Joseph Xing Wenzhi to lead the diocese of Shanghai. Before Msgr. Ma's appointment, he was auxiliary bishop, but resigned in 2012 for reasons that are still to be clarified.