18 July 2023, The Tablet

Vatican confirms Shanghai bishop to sustain ‘spirit of dialogue’

“The Vatican is pursuing a policy of kowtow and appeasement which will carry grave risks for the Church,” said Benedict Rogers.

Vatican confirms Shanghai bishop to sustain ‘spirit of dialogue’

Joseph Shen Bin was appointed Bishop of Shanghai by the Chinese government in April without consulting the Vatican.
Youtube screenshot

Pope Francis last week confirmed the appointment of Joseph Shen Bin as Bishop of Shanghai, three months after he was installed by the Chinese government without Vatican approval.

The Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, announced on 15 July that the Pope wished to “remedy the canonical irregularity created in Shanghai, in view of the greater good of the diocese and the fruitful exercise of the bishop’s pastoral ministry”.

Shen was consecrated Bishop of Haimen in 2010 with both state and Vatican approval, but the Vatican only heard of his transfer to Shanghai in April this year when it “learned from media of the installation”, as a spokesman confirmed at the time.

Parolin said that the Vatican decided “to take time before publicly commenting on the case” and concluded that confirming the appointment would allow Shen to “work with greater serenity to promote evangelisation and foster ecclesial communion”.

The cardinal was one of the architects of the Vatican’s 2018 provisional agreement with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops, which has twice been renewed for two years.  

Expressing his disappointment with Beijing’s conduct, he said it was now “indispensable that all episcopal appointments in China, including transfers, are made by consensus, as agreed, and keeping alive the spirit of dialogue”.

Parolin added that both parties need to discuss “pending issues” relating to Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin and Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi, Shanghai auxiliaries who disappeared from public in 2011 and 2012. He said they require “a just and wise solution”.

Benedict Rogers, the chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, said the Vatican confirmation “sends a profoundly dangerous signal”.  

He told The Tablet that Beijing “will be emboldened to commit further breaches [of the agreement] by the Vatican’s decision to roll over and accept Beijing’s will”.

“The Vatican is pursuing a policy of kowtow and appeasement which will carry grave risks for the Church,” he said.  “We should only ever genuflect at the altar, not at the gates of Zhongnanhai.”

Shen, whom Parolin described as an “esteemed pastor”, undertook to “continue to carry forward the fine tradition of patriotism and love of the Catholic Church in Shanghai” at his installation in April.

Fr Gianni Criveller, a missionary who taught in mainland China for 27 years, said that the Pope’s intentions “are for the good of the people of God in China and Shanghai” and that Francis was “signalling that he does not want to be ensnared by [the appointment’s] difficulties and unfairness”.

Writing for Asia News, Fr Criveller expressed concern about future breaches of the China-Vatican agreement but said that Parolin’s specific mention of Bishop Ma and Bishop Xing was “a positive development”.

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