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Test case for bishops’ appointments in China

HONG KONG (UCAN): The Vatican has given its approval to Father Tang Yuange, a priest from Chengdu in southwestern China who was chosen through a government selection process, to be ordained as a bishop.

Local Catholics in southwestern Sichuan province said on December 24 that the Holy See had given its approval for Father Tang to be appointed and ordained as a bishop in October, shortly after a six-member Vatican delegation visited Beijing to meet with Chinese officials.

“The news is now known by all priests and many Catholics,” a local person, who asked not to be named, said, adding that the ordination will take place in 2016.

The election and Vatican approval is being interpreted as a test case for Vatican-China relations regarding Beijing’s democratic principle for the Church in China, which calls for bishops to be elected by a government-selected panel of voters comprised of clergy and laity.

Father Tang’s election in May 2014 came suddenly and surprised many Çhurch observers. It was the first election for a bishop-designate to be conducted since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in 2013 and came just one month before China resumed talks with the Vatican.

Even at that time, China-Church-watchers regarded it as a test case for the Vatican.

Father Bernardo Cervellera, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions’ Rome-based news agency, AsiaNews, said Beijing’s proposal to the Vatican calls for the Holy See to recognise all bishops from the official community, including those who have been excommunicated.

The suggested process is for bishop candidates to be democratically elected through the government-approved system. The Vatican is then asked to approve appointments of the government-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Church in China, or offer a veto.

But Father Cervellera pointed out that if Beijing finds the Vatican’s rationale for a veto to not be compelling, then the appointment will go ahead anyway.

“What Cervellera said is very true,” a Chinese researcher, who declined to be named, said. “This is always what Beijing demands and the Vatican has to show its sincerity to resolve problems to have talks continue.”


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