As preparation is underway to ordain a second bishop with the approval of the Pope, China appears to be extending an olive branch to the Holy See amid strained relations between the government and Chinese Christians.
Reuters reports that Cosmos Ji Chengyi will likely be ordained in Henan as bishop of Zhumadian, news that comes a week after Bishop Joseph Zhang Yilin was ordained under the Vatican’s approval in the same province.
A date for his ceremony, however, has not yet been approved.
“The Zhumadian diocese still does not have a well-maintained church to host the ordination ceremony,” Li Jianlin, a spokesman for the Catholic diocese in Henan province, said in a China Daily report.
“We are still fixing one of the churches as the venue for the ceremony.”
Zhang became China’s first Catholic bishop in over three years, with the last one being appointed by the Chinese government in 2012. Zhang’s ordination to be named coadjutor bishop of Anyang is considered a positive sign of cooperation between Chinese officials and the Roman Catholic church, especially as tensions have mounted over the removal of church crosses in Zhejiang province.
The appointments are “good signs that the Chinese government is more open,” Anthony Lam, a senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, said in the Reuters report.
China’s Catholic community is divided between the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA), which runs under Communist Party oversight, and an underground church that gives allegiance to the Pope.
The last bishop to be ordained in China was Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who resigned from the CPCA during his ordination as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in 2012 and was soon after placed under house arrest.