Pope Francis names Chinese bishop who attended Synod to Archdiocese of Hangzhou

Chinese Bishops at Synod Bishop Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun (right) of the People's Republic of China at the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican in October 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang to lead the Archdiocese of Hangzhou in China, transferring him from the Diocese of Zhoucun, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The June 12 nomination took place “within the framework of dialogue concerning the implementation of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican’s June 22 press release said.

The new archbishop was one of two bishops from mainland China to participate in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

He has led the Zhoucun Diocese in Shandong Province since 2013.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists last year that Yang and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated to attend the synod by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government.

Yang was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995. He was named a bishop by papal mandate in November 2010, and his consecration as bishop took place a little over two years later, in February 2013. 

He was elected vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016.

The Archdiocese of Hangzhou is located in the province of Zhejiang on the eastern coast of China. The province’s capital city of Hangzhou has an estimated population of nearly 12 million people, according to a 2020 census.

The archdiocese did not have a bishop with a papal mandate from 1956 to 2008. It was previously led by Archbishop Matthew Cao Xiangde, who was appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained without Vatican permission in 2000. In 2008, at his request, the Holy See recognized the bishop’s episcopal consecration but not his jurisdiction over the archdiocese.

Matthew Cao Xiangde died in July 2021 at the age of 93.

Statistics from the 1950s estimated the number of Catholics in the archdiocese to be only .4% of the total population.

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