- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

BEIJING — A cleric well-regarded by the Vatican was installed as bishop of Beijing yesterday by China’s state- controlled Catholic Church, a move that officials said should help ease tense relations between the communist nation and the Holy See.

The Rev. Joseph Li Shan was appointed to the influential post in China’s capital at a ceremony at the city’s 400-year-old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Attendance was limited to several hundred priests, nuns, officials and ordinary Chinese Catholics invited by the Beijing Diocese.

Dozens of uniformed police officers were positioned around the church, controlling access and keeping foreign journalists from entering the cathedral. Despite the security, the ceremony drew little public attention, with Catholics numbering more than 60,000 among Beijing’s 15 million people.

The ceremony began with a procession of seminarians, nuns, priests and bishops, including ordaining prelate Bishop John Fang Xingyao of the eastern diocese of Linyi. Proceedings were broadcast to those outside via loudspeaker and closed-circuit television.

The 42-year-old Bishop Li took a traditional oath of service to the church that also added a nod to government authority. He promised to “lead all the priests, seminarians and nuns of this diocese in adhering to the nation’s constitution, maintaining national unification and social stability.”

Bishop Li replaces Bishop Fu Tieshan, a Communist Party supporter and hard-liner toward the Vatican whose death in April provided an opportunity for the state-controlled church and Rome for rapprochement. When Bishop Li was named as Bishop Fu’s replacement in July, Vatican officials praised him, though they said Beijing had not consulted Rome before his appointment.

The Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, carried news of the installation yesterday, implicitly showing the Vatican’s approval of the new bishop.

Also referring to an earlier ordination in southern China, the newspaper said the Catholic communities in Guiyang and Beijing “had news of the communion granted by the pope” to the two prelates.

Liu Bainian, the vice chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the party-controlled body that oversees the church, said such priests as Bishop Li “should be encouraged, not condemned” and added: “We know that the pope loves China.”

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