China's state-approved Catholic Church welcomed the installation Sunday of another bishop who was not approved by the pope, exacerbating Beijing's already strained relations with the Vatican.
Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu celebrated mass for 500 Catholics and Chinese officials in a church in the southern city of Ningde to mark his formal appointment as head of the Mindong Diocese. Hong Kong Cable TV showed Zhan holding a gold staff and wearing the white miter used by bishops.
The ceremony compounded deteriorating relations between the Vatican and China. A few months ago, Catholics hoped that back-channel communications and concessions from the Vatican would end a rift between the Vatican and the state-approved church.
Bishop Zhan Silu decided to install himself as bishop of the diocese, even though he is unpopular with most Catholics of the diocese and despite having become bishop in an illicit ceremony, that of January 6, 2000.
The Mindong Diocese consists almost entirely of believers who belong to the underground Church: out of 80,000 Catholics, more than 70,000, well organized and with a lot of vitality, are underground and can count on over 45 priests, 96 nuns and 400 lay catechists.