Double approval for new bishop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am

Paul Xiao Zejiang was yesterday ordained coadjutor bishop of Guizhou diocese, the first ordination approved by both the Holy See and Beijing following the publication of Pope Benedict's letter to mainland Catholics on June 30.

It is widely believed that the ordination, free of any complications from both sides, reflects Beijing's desire to avoid derailing a dialogue with the Vatican.

In his letter, the Pope tried to resolve divisions between the official and unofficial Catholic churches on the mainland by urging the underground faithful, whom he praised greatly, to reconcile with followers of the official church. He also expressed hope that the Vatican and Beijing could agree on a way to appoint bishops, an issue over which both sides have been at loggerheads for years.

A caretaker at the North Church in Guiyang , Guizhou province , where yesterday's ordination took place, said: 'The ordination ran very smoothly and lasted for about three hours. Crowds of priests and seminarians from Guizhou and other parts of China attended.'

As coadjutor, Bishop Xiao, 40, would automatically succeed Bishop Anicetus Wang Chongyi, 89, after the latter's death or retirement.

In what was seen as a show of goodwill, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, last month said the new Catholic bishop of Beijing, Bishop Joseph Li Shan, was a 'very good' candidate for bishop even though he had not been selected by the Pope.

Bishop Xiao's ordination came two days after China Daily ran an interview with Liu Bainian , vice-president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, in which he insisted Beijing could select bishops.

However, he added: 'A key factor hindering an improvement in ties with the Vatican lies in what kind of bishops are to be selected.'