Two bishops from mainland China at the Synod in the Vatican

Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun and Yao Shun of Jining are on the list of members released today a couple of weeks before the synod opens. They were picked by the local Church in agreement with the authorities and appointed by Pope Francis.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Like in 2018, two bishops from mainland China will be present at the Synod of Bishops set to open on 4 October at the Vatican, the Secretariat of the Synod announced at a briefing that saw the release of the latest list of participants.

“The local Church, in agreement with the authorities, put forward two names and the Holy Father included them among the members he appointed,” said Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod.

The two bishops are 53-year-old Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun (Shandong), appointed 10 years ago, and 58-year-old Anthony Yao Shun of Jining (Inner Mongolia).

Yao Shun is one of the first bishops ordained in 2019 after the Holy See and the People's Republic of China reached a provisional agreement on episcopal appointments. The Vatican had, however, already approved his appointment in 2010.

The two are different from the two Chinese prelatesBishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde (Hebei) and Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Ya'an (Shaanxi) – who participated in the 2018 Synod on young people.

Other prelates from the wider Chinese area will also be present, namely newly appointed Cardinal Stephen Chow, bishop of Hong Kong (who was already on the list), and Bishop Norbert Pu of Kiayi (Taiwan) from the Bishops’ Conference officially recognised by the Vatican (which includes only prelates from Taiwan).

The first list of Synod members was released in early July and did not include the two bishops from mainland China, when the question of Beijing’s unilateral transfer of Bishop Shen Bin to Shanghai, the heart of Chinese Catholicism, was still not settled.

A few days later Pope Francis, in a show of overture, appointed Shen Bin to Shanghai, a decision Vatican Secretary of State Card Parolin described as "for the good of the diocese" to fix the irregularity created. This probably made it possible for the two prelates to attend the Synod.

In today’s briefing, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication Paolo Ruffini said that their presence shows the “importance of the Church and Chinese people that Pope Francis clearly underscored during his recent trip to Mongolia.”

It should be noted that since the pandemic Chinese bishops have not been allowed to take part in any initiative by Asian Churches.

Last year no one from mainland China attended the general assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) in Bangkok marking the FABC’s 50th anniversary, nor were any able to publicly take part in the different phases of the synodal path in Asia.

Just a few weeks ago, the bishop of Jining, whose Church follows Mongolian tradition and has historically important ties with Mongolia, was not allowed to travel to that country to meet Pope Francis.