The bishop of Hong Kong said Friday that the ordination of Chinese bishops, appointed by the government but approved by the Vatican, is a breakthrough in relations between the Vatican and China.
Bishop Joseph Zen told his fellow bishops in Rome at the three-week Synod of Bishops that the “overwhelming majority" of Chinese bishops appointed by the government had now been legitimized by Rome, reported the Associated Press.
The issue of appointing bishops has been a major obstacle in relations between the Vatican and China, but Bishop Zen believes progress is now being made in Vatican-Chinese relations.
The bishop said he believes episcopal appointments in China first come from the Pope. Then the local bishop tries to have this candidate admitted, and then the government has the choice to ordain the bishop, he told the AP. The practice has been in place for some time but has not been publicized, he said.
China forced Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the Pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops. Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.
Beijing should realize it is losing its tight control over Roman Catholics in China, Bishop Zen reportedly said.