China's Catholics get Vatican-approved bishop

HONG KONG • Amid heavy security, China's Catholics have ordained their first new bishop in three years, signalling a possible thawing in tension between the Vatican and Beijing.

Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin, 44, was ordained on Tuesday in Anyang city in Henan province, before 1,400 worshippers. Outside the cathedral, hundreds of police officers set up a tight security cordon, according to Catholic news agency UCANews.

China broke off ties with the Vatican after the Communist Party came to power in 1949.

The government runs its own official church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which names its own priests and bishops. China sees papal control over the process as an affront to its sovereignty.

China has as many as 12 million Catholics. Many bristle at having an officially atheist government exercise control over their church.

In July 2012, the last bishop to be ordained in China, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, announced at his consecration that he was resigning from the official church. He was stripped of his title and sent to a seminary outside Shanghai. In recent years, the Vatican has excommunicated at least two bishops ordained by the Chinese church who did not have papal approval.

The ordination of Bishop Zhang could signal a return to a tacit agreement that the official church will put forward only candidates who have Vatican approval.

He was approved by the Vatican, and his ordination was announced by the official church in China. Also at the ceremony was a Vatican-approved candidate for bishop in another Henan city, said UCANews.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'China's Catholics get Vatican-approved bishop'. Print Edition | Subscribe