Hopes are high that a newly ordained bishop in Shanghai will help ease tensions and improve relations between China and the Vatican.

Hundreds of Catholics packed Shanghai's cathedral Tuesday to witness the episcopal ordination of Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi, 42. He was ordained by Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, who is recognized as the bishop of Shanghai by the government-backed church of China.

Bishop Jin, 89, is stepping back from many of his administrative duties. It is believed that Bishop Xing will be formed to succeed him.

China's communist government has no formal relations with the Vatican and rejects the Pope's authority to appoint bishops. But earlier this month, Bishop Jin told the Associated Press that both Rome and Beijing authorities tacitly agreed to Bishop Xing's appointment.

Many more Chinese Catholics belong to the underground church that remains loyal to Rome, and they do not consider Bishop Jin their pastoral leader. They regard Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang as Shanghai's true bishop. The elderly Bishop Fan is reportedly in virtual house arrest and is in ailing health.

Vatican spokesmen have not commented publicly on Bishop Xing's appointment.