By Anita Bourdin

Under the Provisional Agreement, a  third Bishop has been appointed and ordained in the People’s Republic of China, in communion with Pope Francis, confirmed the Holy See.

He is Reverend Thomas Chen Tianhao, appointed in the diocese of Qingdao, Shandong. Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, announced at the same time that new appointments are expected in the future. ”Several processes are underway for episcopal appointments,” he said.

According to Vatican Radio, “the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China is bearing fruits.” It’s the third appointment of a Bishop in communion with the Successor of Peter, since the signing of the Agreement in September 2018.

“I can confirm that the Reverend Thomas Chen Tianhao is the third Bishop appointed and ordained in virtue of the regulatory framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of Bishops,” specified Bruni.

“I can also add that more episcopal consecrations are expected in the future, as different processes are being carried out for new episcopal appointments,” he continued.

The Provisional Agreement, renewed in recent weeks for two more years, does not concern directly diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China, or the juridical statute of the Chinese Catholic Church or relations between the clergy and the country’s Authorities, reported Vatican Radio. “It only concerns the process of the appointment of Bishops: an essential issue for the life of the Church and for the communion of the Pastors of the Chinese Catholic Church with the Bishop of Rome and with the Bishops of the world.”

The Provisional Agreement’s objective has always been truly pastoral,” points out the same source. “To enable the Catholic faithful to have Bishops in full communion with the Successor of Peter and, at the same time, to be recognized by the Authorities of the People’s Republic of China.”

On October 22, L’Osservatore Romano stressed that the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and China on the appointment of Bishops is “above all the point of departure for broader and long-term Agreements.” The Agreement had just been extended for two years.

Referring to the teaching of the Conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium, the text must gradually ensure “on one hand the unity of the faith and the communion between the Bishops and, on the other hand, the complete service of the Catholic community in China,” said L’Osservatore Romano.

The Vatican newspaper published on the front page a long press release geared to “deepening the purpose and the motives of the renewal of the Provisional Agreement for two years, which were validated the same day by both parties.”

It reiterated that the reasons are not “geopolitical” but “ecclesiological and pastoral, to “support and promote the proclamation of the Gospel in this country, reconstituting full and visible union with the Church.”

The way is still long and not exempt from difficulties, states the press release. “Profoundly conscious” of all the “worrying” questions “related to the life of the Catholic Church in China,” which have yet to be addressed, the Holy See “takes them into account  and does no crease to call the attention of the Chinese Government to foment a more fruitful exercise of religious liberty.”

Recently, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, also recalled the long process that led to the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops.

“The Agreement’s objective is above all ecclesial and pastoral,” reiterated the Vatican Secretary of State. It is to “help the local Churches to enjoy conditions of greater freedom, autonomy, and organization, so that they dedicate themselves to the mission and proclaim the Gospel, contributing to the integral development of the person and the society,” he said.

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