ZHENGZHOU, China (LifeSiteNews) — The Holy See announced a new bishop has been appointed and consecrated in China under the secretive terms of the Sino-Vatican deal, but discrepancies between official details suggest Beijing still holds control.
On January 25, the Holy See Press Office briefly announced that Father Thaddeus Wang Yuesheng had been consecrated that same day “within the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.”
The Holy See added that Wang had, on December 16, been appointed by Pope Francis as Bishop of Zhengzhou in the third-most populated province of China, Henan. The appointment was not made public until January 25.
Wang now leads a diocese that has been without a bishop for more than 70 years.
But a statement from the Chinese Communist state-approved church presented different facts about the dates involved. The Chinese authorities stated that Wang had been “elected as the bishop-designate of Zhengzhou on March 22, 2022.”
It added that Wang had served as chairman of the state-church’s Catholic Patriotic Congress in Henan since December 2011, a fact omitted in the Holy See’s brief biographical details provided.
Should the state-church’s information be true, it appears that the Holy See – while presenting the appointment as a successful event under the terms of the Sino-Vatican deal – is once again playing second fiddle to Beijing, which installed Wang into the diocese 20 months prior.
The state-church acknowledged that Wang was indeed only consecrated on January 25, but the possibility of Beijing having taken the lead in installing him as bishop is made even more likely based on further details provided by the Chinese Communist church. (There are a number of different bodies of the state-approved church in China, the most well known being the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, with various similarly named groups of the state-approved bishops).
The CCPA statement revealed that Bishop Shen Bin consecrated Wang. Bishop Shen serves as head of the state-approved bishops conference that does not recognize the authority of the Vatican for appointing bishops and is also vice president of the CCPA.
A number of other state-approved prelates were also in attendance at Wang’s consecration along with over “40 priests, nuns and representatives of the laity.”
Shen was installed by the Chinese authorities as bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 – a move that the Vatican was not informed of. Shen had been the Vatican-recognized bishop of Haimen, and the Vatican-recognized bishop of Shanghai was actually Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin.
Some months later, Pope Francis capitulated to the Communist officials: On July 15, 2023, the Holy See announced that the Pope had appointed Bishop Joseph Shen Bin as Bishop of Shanghai, thus “transferring him from the Diocese of Haimen, Jiangsu Province.”
Indeed, the Chinese had already violated the “spirit” of the Sino-Vatican deal, said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, when in November 2022 the CCP appointed Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi. The diocese is not recognized by the Holy See, and in a subsequent statement the Vatican declared that it learned of the ceremony with “surprise and regret.”
The Holy See described Wang’s consecration as taking place under the ‘framework” of the secretive Sino-Vatican deal. First signed in 2018, and subsequently renewed every two years since, the deal is up for renewal in October.
LifeSiteNews inquired with Cardinal Parolin on January 18, asking if the deal was intended to be renewed this year, but has yet to receive a response.
Parolin defended the secretive nature of the deal last July, stating that “the text is confidential because it has not yet been finally approved.” The deal, which “revolves around the basic principle of consensuality of decisions affecting bishops,” is effected by “trusting in the wisdom and goodwill of all,” Parolin said.
The deal is believed to recognize the state-approved version of the Catholic Church and allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to appoint bishops. The Pope apparently maintains a veto power although in practice it is the CCP that has control. It also allegedly allows for the removal and replacement of legitimate bishops by CCP-approved bishops.
While Both Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin have continually defended the deal, Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has repeatedly criticized it strongly. He described the agreement as an “incredible betrayal” of China’s Catholics and accused the Vatican of “selling out” Chinese Catholics.
It has also led to a heightened increase in religious persecution since the deal was signed, which the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China described as a direct consequence of the deal. In its 2020 report, the Commission wrote that the persecution witnessed is “of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”