11/26/2022, 19.38
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Vatican says China has violated agreement with Msgr Peng appointment

by Giorgio Bernardelli

Official Vatican communiqué on the "installation" reported by AsiaNews: "The event is not in accordance with stipulations and was preceded by heavy pressure from local authorities." Rome does not recognize the diocese of Jiangxi. The issue of jurisdiction over the clergy of the Yujiang diocese.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "installation ceremony" of Msgr. John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary bishop of the "Diocese of Jiangxi" did not take place in accordance with the provisions of the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops between the Vatican and the People's Republic of China, renewed just a month ago

Officially intervening in the affair first publicized by AsiaNews two days ago, the Holy See's Press Office today released a harsh statement which clarifies that the prelate - clandestinely ordained under Pope Francis' mandate in 2014 as bishop of Yujiang - by "formalizing" his position in a diocese other than the one for which he had been appointed made a choice that was not agreed upon with Rome and was "the result of consistent and heavy pressure."

"The Holy See," the note reads, "noted with surprise and regret the news of the 'installation ceremony,' which took place Nov. 24 in Nanchang, of Msgr. John Peng Weizhao, bishop of Yujiang (Jiangxi province), as 'auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,' a diocese not recognized by the Holy See. This event, in fact, did not take place in accordance with the spirit of dialogue existing between the Vatican and Chinese sides and with what was stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops, September 22, 2018. What is more," the Vatican statement further adds, "the civil recognition of Msgr. Peng was preceded, according to reports, by long and heavy pressure from the local authorities."

"The Holy See," the note concludes, "hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, awaits appropriate appropriate communications on the matter from the authorities and reaffirms its full readiness to continue respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest."

As we recounted two days ago in our article, on Sept. 22-that is, a few days after the visit to Tianjin of the Vatican delegation under which the renewal of the Interim Agreement was stipulated-Msgr.. Peng had announced to the clergy of Yujiang his resignation from the leadership of the diocese, a prerequisite for its "formalization." That such a step occurred in this way once again confirms how little weight Beijing attaches to the Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops.

Moreover, the fact that the news about Msgr. Peng's "installation" on chinacatholic.cn - the website of Catholic bodies linked to the Chinese Communist Party - explicitly quoted the text of an embarrassing oath for a bishop from the "underground" Catholic communities - with references to the autonomy of the Chinese Church and the goal of adapting Catholicism to socialist society - clearly suggested that this was a stretch.

It should also be remembered that-despite the renewal of the Agreement-it has been since September 8, 2021, that no appointment of a bishop has taken place in China, despite the large number of vacant dioceses. And that the Accord was not even mentioned in the official texts of the Assembly of Chinese Catholics held in Wuhan last summer under strict Party control.

Finally, it should be pointed out that today's Vatican communiqué expressly says that the diocese of Jiangxi-which in Beijing's designs is supposed to unite under the rule of the (official) Bishop of Nanchang Msgr. Li Suguang all five ecclesiastical districts in the province-is not recognized by the Holy See.

This means that from a canonical point of view the Yujiang diocese at least for the time being remains. So its clergy, who continue to resist pressure to register in the official bodies and in recent weeks had expressed disappointment with Msgr. Peng's choice, are not required to submit to the jurisdiction of the "official" diocese based in Nanchang.

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