(China/Vatican) The Vatican will hold a meeting for Bishops worldwide from October 4th to 29th. Two bishops from mainland China are listed as attendees for this year’s meeting. The presence of these two government-recognized individuals at the Synod on Synodality indicates that they received permission from the Chinese government.
This marks the second time that the Chinese government has allowed Chinese bishops to attend the synod. On both occasions, none of the four bishops were from the “underground” Catholic Church in China.
The invited Bishops
The local Catholic communities proposed these two Chinese bishops and reached a consensus with the authorities, and the Pope included them in the list of nominees. These two bishops are 53-year-old Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun, Shandong, and 58-year-old Bishop Anthony Yao Shun of Jining/Wumeng, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang is the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Bishops’ Conference and officially affiliated with the government. He was appointed ten years ago. Anthony Yao Shun is the first bishop appointed after the “Bishop Appointment Agreement” between the Vatican and China in 2018. As members appointed by the Pope, these two bishops from mainland China will participate in all aspects of the conference. This includes group discussions, plenary sessions, group activities, and prayers.
During the synod held in 2018, there was a focus on young people. Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting from Yan’an Diocese in Shaanxi and Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai from Chengde Diocese in Hebei were allowed to attend, but they did not participate in the entire event.
Bishop Stephen Chow
Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan, the Bishop of Hong Kong, yan will receive the title of cardinal during the consistory on September 30th. He will be joined by Bishop Norbert Pu, who is officially recognized by the Episcopal Conference of Taiwan and serves as the Bishop of Chiayi Diocese.
Beijing is pursuing a policy of “Sinicization” of religion. The government attempts to place Vatican-appointed “underground” bishops under party control with government-recognized bishops, through the recent provisional agreement. On the other hand, the Vatican hopes that the agreement can assert its authority over all bishops in China. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides.
But “underground” bishops often pay the price of accommodating their conscience.
Themes of the Synod
The three themes of the Synod on Synodality are communion, participation, and mission.” The presence of the Chinese bishops at the synod is said by the Holy See to be an expression of the ecumenical nature of the Church and a hallmark of the synod of bishops.
As a true expression of communion with the universal Church, the Chinese Government should allow at least one of the two persons attending the global Synod of Bishops to be an “underground” bishop. As a sign of respect and goodwill to the Holy See, Beijing needs first to release all the “underground” bishops who are still in a state of enforced disappearance.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid