The Vatican has confirmed that Paul Liang Jiansen has been ordained as bishop of the Chinese city of Jiangmen. That’s the first such ordination in China since relations between the communist state and the Holy See broke-down last year.
There had been a degree of confusion as it had not been listed in the official bulletin of the Holy See’s Press Office, the usual means of notification.
A spokesman for the Holy See, Father Ciro Benedettini, explained to CNA how the Church deals with China.
“There’s a special section in the Secretariat of State overseeing the Church there rather than going through the Congregation of Bishops or Propaganda Fide," he said. "It’s a form of protection. China has special treatment. Sometimes the news isn’t given of a new bishop’s ordination and sometimes it is. But if it is, it’s always done through L’Osservatore Romano.”
The ordination of Bishop Jiansen took place on March 30. He replaces Bishop Peter Paul Li Panshi, who died in 2007.
Neither the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association nor the self-described Chinese bishops’ conference acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
An agreement by which bishops in the patriotic association would receive tacit approval from the Vatican appeared to have broken down last year with China's appointment a new bishop in the northern city of Chengde. This was done without Rome's approval.
It’s estimated there are some 6 million Catholics in China, although millions more are worshiping outside the official state-sanctioned Church. The Holy See is currently concluding a three day meeting, entitled the Vatican Commission for the Church in China, which is being held to discuss the state of Catholicism in that country.