South China Morning Post [subscriber only] is the first – so far as I can tell – news source to confirm what was already becoming obvious: Fr. Li Shan will be the government AND Vatican-approved bishop of Beijing. The key passage in the SCMP story indicates just how much relations between Rome and Beijing have improved since the Pope’s letter in June:
Last night, Anthony Liu Bainian , a vice-chairman of the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which controls the mainland’s church, said he had heard about the Vatican’s decision. But he stressed that there had been no official contact between Beijing and the Holy See due to a lack of diplomatic relations. He added that the Holy See’s recognition of Father Li’s status was a gesture of goodwill.
“I am sure this will be beneficial to improving Sino-Vatican relations,” Mr Liu added.
[note that the story distinguishes between the CCPA and the Church itself. Hopefully, other publications will follow SCMP’s lead in making this important distinction. Generally, most media refer – incorrectly! – to the CCPA and the church as interchangeable.]
Nobody from the Vatican was willing to be quoted on the subject, but that is very much in keeping with the Holy See’s deliberate and quiet approach to this highly sensitive ordination. Mindful of the government’s angry reaction to the 2005 announcement that Joseph Xing Wenzhi’s ordination in Shanghai was Vatican-approved, the Vatican is probably interested in keeping things quiet in Beijing. We’ll see how that goes.
Mindful of my sources and their needs, the only thing that I’ll add to this news is that – at some point in the future – historians will take a great interest in how and when Li asked for the ponitifical mandate.
In response to some of the emails that I’ve received over the last week: I haven’t meant to be coy about what I do or do not know about these events. I have tried to distribute as much information as possible while being carefully mindful of the sources and their needs.
Finally, this morning UCAN is running an interesting piece on the celebrants for tomorrow’s ordination. Most of them will be from the generation of “young bishops” who have assumed roles over the last few years. The most notable among these is Paul Pei Junmin, co-adjutor of Shenyang and a brilliant 38-year-old scholar who spent most of his thirties studying in the United States. In coming years, Pei may very likely become the most prominent and important of China’s bishops. His 2006 ordination was Vatican-approved.