Saturday, September 22, 2007

Beijing's New Bishop: Commie-Tested, Ratzi-Approved

Arguably the most-watched episcopal ordination in recent years took place yesterday in Beijing, as 41 year-old Fr Joseph Li Shan was made its archbishop at the hands of prelates of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the state-controlled church in the People's Republic.

Succeeding Michael Fu Tieshan, who died in April, Li -- the former rector of Beijing's seminary -- already boasts a credential that eluded his predecessor: the consent of the Holy See, formally announced yesterday on the cover of the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, which also extended papal approbation to another recent ordination by the Patriotic church.
[L'Osservatore] indicated that both ordinations had been carried out with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The local Catholic communities, who elected the bishops, had indicated to the Vatican that they were worthy candidates, the newspaper said.

"The Catholic communities of Guiyang and Beijing, having received news of the communion granted by the pope to Bishop Xiao and Bishop Li, gathered in celebration around the new pastors," the newspaper said.

At Bishop Li's ordination, there was no announcement of Vatican approval.

Father Sun Shang'en of Beijing, diocesan spokesman, told the press afterward, "If the Vatican approves Bishop Li, we are happy and welcome it, but we have not yet seen the apostolic bull from the Vatican."...

L'Osservatore Romano noted that the principal consecrating bishops at both ordinations were in communion with Rome but said some of the co-consecrators were not -- a "cause of regret," it said.

"In entrusting the difficult mission of these two young bishops and their diocesan communities to the Virgin Mary, there arises the spontaneous hope that all the dioceses can have worthy and qualified pastors, capable of living in full communion with the Catholic Church and with the successor of Peter, and of announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Chinese people," it said.

The article noted that Pope Benedict, in his recent letter to Chinese Catholics, had called for a "respectful dialogue" between church and state authorities, and added: "Catholics in China and in the rest of the world are praying so that this may become a reality."

The Vatican comments added to speculation that the two ordinations may mark the beginning of a new and improved stage in Vatican-China relations.

The Rome-based missionary news service AsiaNews, which follows events in China closely, quoted a Chinese source as saying the Chinese government was no longer imposing its own candidates as bishops and was now allowing the church more freedom.
In other news from ecclesio-political hotspots, as previously reported the Pope yesterday reshuffled the top of his Russian deck, naming Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow to the archdiocese of Minsk in his native Belarus, and tapping Italian Fr Carlo Pezzi, 47, as the new head of the church in the Russian capital.

It's been noted elsewhere but bears repeating that Pezzi -- heretofore a seminary rector in St Petersburg -- is a member of the Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo, the community of priests associated with Benedict XVI's favorite movement, Comunione e Liberazione.

First revealed some weeks ago by Andrea Tornielli, the resident Vaticanista of Il Giornale, the appointment is viewed as another papal overture to the Russian Orthodox church, with which Benedict is heavily keen on improving relations.

Speaking of CL, the movement will be holding a retreat for US priests in late March at a Jesuit house in Los Altos, California. In true Giussani style, its topic will be "The Catholic priest does that which allows the memory of Christ to become the Event that generates our humanity." One of the brightest stars of the cielini firmament, Msgr Lorenzo Albacete, will lead the conferences.

In other "highly favored of The Apartment" news, the rector-major of the Salesians Fr Pascual Chavez is currently undertaking his first US tour.

Reuters/Reinhard Krause