It has been three weeks since Pope Benedict XVI issued his first letter to mainland Chinese Catholics which stirred up a wide range of sentiments, and since then observers have been eagerly watching for the first signs of Beijing’s response to the letter.
Well according to new reports that have come in, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Church has “quietly” nominated (note: not appointed) a new bishop for Beijing. In his 40s, Father Li Shan of Beijing’s Eastern Cathedral (东堂) near the Wangfujing shopping district, is not known to have received papal blessing but has said the government would decide whether to seek approval from Rome as Pope Benedict demanded.
The death in April of Beijing bishop Fu Tieshan, who did not have Rome’s blessing, opened a vacancy in China’s most prominent diocese and presented a test for China-Vatican relations. Some church people have hoped that in the wake of the Pope’s letter, China will make a gesture of goodwill by giving Rome some say in naming Fu’s successor. But the elevation of Li, who said he had not been in contact with the Vatican, may inflame tensions if he is appointed without papal blessing. One priest familiar with the issue said Li may be in private contact with the Vatican and it was too early to assume he would be ordained without Vatican approval. Like other sources he requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
According to the Catholic News Service though:
Church sources in Beijing confirmed that the polling did take place July 16 and that all the candidates except Father Li had studied abroad. They also said that government officials had earlier lobbied all priests to ensure that Father Li would be elected.
In other religious news, ChristianToday reports that China has recently expelled more than 100 foreign nationals between April and June this year for their alleged participation in “illegal religious activities”. The Christians have all been expelled to prevent proselytisation at next year’s upcoming Olympic Games.
Reuters: China nominates bishop, threatening Vatican rift
Catholic News Service: Beijing Catholics elect Dongtang priest as new bishop
La Stampa: A new bishop in Beijing is China’s answer to the Pope’s letter
LA Times: China’s pick for bishop is a test of Vatican ties
ChristianToday: China expels Christians to prevent evangelism at Beijing Olympics
Image of the Eastern Cathedral of St Joseph where Father Li Shan presides from Yoshimai.