Earlier this month, Yongqiang attended a study session on how to implement the new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” government restrictions that ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.
Bishop Antonio Yao Shun was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. He is the bishop of Jining in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia.
Before his appointment, Yao, now 58, had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as vicar general.
Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.
The New York Times has reported that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89.
However, Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.
“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism, told the New York Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”