06/28/2005, 00.00
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China: the government and Holy See ordain a bishop jointly for the first time

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Mgr Giuseppe Xing Wenzhi, 42 years, was today ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. The prelate said publicly that he received the nomination of the Holy See. In future, he will able to take the place of Mgr Aloysius Jin Luxian, who is now nearly 90 and very ill. Mgr Xing studied in the United States and until today, he was vicar-general of the diocese.

With this move, the Chinese government hopes to find a way of healing the rift between the underground – unofficial – Church and the official Church, which is recognised and registered by the government.

For the Chinese government, accepting a bishop recognised by the Holy See, means setting a single point of reference for the official and underground communities.

The acceptance of a bishop nominated by the Holy See is a gain even for the Vatican, because Beijing is acknowledging that links between the Vatican and a bishop do not signify unwarranted interference in China's internal affairs and do not threaten the security of the state.

The joint nomination is a victory for Catholic Chinese: in recent years, bishops nominated by the government but not by the Holy See have been ever more marginalised and even scorned by Christian communities, which refuse to participate in their ceremonies, even their funerals.

The problem of freedom of worship in China remains open for all the Catholic Church and especially for the diocese of Shanghai. It is not yet known how much freedom the government will be able to offer the new bishop: if he will have the freedom to lead pastoral and evangelisation activities; if the seminary of Shanghai will be able to invited foreign professors and how many; if the bishop will have the opportunity of a free relationship with the pontiff and the universal church; if the current underground bishop of Shanghai Mgr Joseph Fan Zhongliang, will also have full freedom to meet his faithful (for years, Mgr Fan's home has been under surveillance).

AsiaNews sources in Shanghai confirm that some of the faithful are very happy about the nomination, which could finally repair ties between the Church and the government. Others have voiced doubts about the personality of Mgr Xing, held to be too weak to resist government pressures and controls.

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