New Bishop in China Seen as Link to Vatican

While both Vatican and China has made failed attempts to establish relationship, the consecration of Xing as auxilliary bishop is seen as a strive to mend the relationship of the two sides.
( [email protected] ) Jun 29, 2005 05:33 AM EDT

Joseph Xing Wenzhi, 42, was consecrated as auxiliary bishop on Tuesday to Shanghai Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, the representative of the government supported Catholic church and will be relinquishing much of his administrative power over according to AP sources.

According to Jin, although China's government has no formal relations with Vatican, he said that authorities of both Beijing and Rome have tacitly agreed to Xing's appointment.

Jin, now at 89, was once trained by French Jesuits in his early ministry, Jin returned from Rome to his native Shanghai in 1951, two years after the communist revolution. Almost immediately, he was accused by the regime of being an "international spy" for the Vatican and detained along with hundreds of other priests.

In the years of imprisonment that followed, Jin said he concluded the communists had a solid grip on power and the only choice was to practice dialogue than confrontation with them.

Yet many Chinese Catholics reject Jin's authority. Many attend underground churches and have regarded Priest Joseph Fan Zhongliang as the true bishop. Currently, Fan is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and has been placed under house arrest for the past five years.

Vatican spokesman have not comment publicly on Xing's appointment. In the past, Vatican had quietly endorsed appointments of clerics in official Chinese Catholic churches.

Xing, upon his appointment, pledged to loyally serve the pope in Rome and promised to be subordinate to the papal authority, while he also said he will work for social stability and a well-off society, the trademark of the Communist government. It is believed that Xing's consecration is a strive to mend the relationship of the two sides.

Xing was born in Shandong from a devoted Catholic family. He has been an educator for years and have traveled as a representative of the Chinese church in building ties abroad. He spent two years in US as a student.

In recent months, attempts and demands have been made by both side to establish ties, but it has been at a standstill until now. In April, Pope Benedict XVI have invited countries without official ties to Vatican to work to form them, a remark aimed primarily at China. Beijing has also demanded Vatican to server relationships with Taiwan if it wishes to build relationship with China.