Xing Wenzhi Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai After Nomination by the Holy See

July 7, 2005

The Rev. Joseph Xing Wenzhi was ordained auxiliary bishop of the registered Catholic diocese of Shanghai on June 28, and said that the Holy See had approved his appointment, according to the June 28 edition of the Boston Globe. The Holy See has not confirmed that it nominated Bishop Xing, and the Shanghai Religious Affairs Bureau has denied any role for the Holy See. But AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency based in Italy and close to the Holy See, and Bishop Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, both confirm that the Holy See approved Bishop Xing's ordination. AsiaNews notes that in accepting a bishop that the Holy See nominated, the Chinese government has shown its tacit willingness to accept the special role of the Holy See in nominating bishops--at least in some cases.

Bishop Xing’s nomination also may have greater significance, since it may be the first step toward the integration of Shanghai’s registered and unregistered Catholic communities. Most Chinese Catholics follow "underground" bishops and priests who the government persecutes for refusing to accept guidance and instruction from the government-dominated Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). These unregistered Catholic clerics and their communities also face repression for being openly in communion with the Holy See. A minority of Catholics follows bishops and priests who accept CPA supervision. That some of these "registered" Catholics are secretly in communion with the Holy See complicates the situation. The diocese of Shanghai now has two Catholic bishops, 86-year-old Bishop Fan Zhongliang, who leads the unregistered community and has lived for years under virtual house arrest, and Bishop Jin Luxian, 89, who leads the registered Catholic community. Both bishops are ill.

When Bishop Jin eventually dies, auxiliary Bishop Xing almost certainly will succeed to the leadership of the registered Catholic community in Shanghai. But as a bishop who has promised in public to subordinate himself to papal authority, Bishop Xing also will be in a position to succeed Bishop Fan as the spiritual leader of the unregistered Catholic community as well.

Analysts believe that the Holy See has long encouraged Bishops Fan and Jin to agree on a common successor, in the hope that Shanghai would become a model for reconciliation among Catholics in dioceses throughout China. Bishop Xing doubtless will need to muster considerable diplomatic skill to achieve the task of uniting the two Catholic communities. The Chinese government likely will press Bishop Xing to demonstrate the subordination of his Church to the government, while many unregistered Catholics will demand that he show the strength to resist government pressure.

Formerly Bishop Jin’s vicar general, and also former rector of the Sheshan Seminary, Bishop Xing is experienced in working with the Chinese government. Informed sources say that Catholic laity and clergy in Shanghai widely support him, and other sources are encouraged by his modesty, discretion, and asceticism.