New (P.A.) Archbishop of Beijing

Is a train wreck in the making?  Perhaps not!

The death of Bishop Michele Fu Tieshan, the late Archbishop of Beijing for the Patriotic Association (in league with the government) left a vacancy.  Fr. Joseph Li Shan has been elected by the government to fill that post. 

In his Letter to Chinese Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI forcefully restated the Church’s right to nominate and approve bishops.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The “community” of the Beijing diocese has chosen Fr. Joseph Li Shan, 43, as their new bishop.  The news was gathered from Chinese Catholic sources, who clarify that his nomination took place on July 16th.

His election will be confirmed by the “Council of bishops”, taking over the post left vacant by the death of Michele Fu Tieshan, Patriotic Archbishop of Beijing, who died on April 20th or maybe even earlier.  As president of the Patriotic Association, the organism by which the Communist Party controls the Catholic Church in the country, Msgr. Fu Tieshan always sided with the government and against the Holy See.  On his death he was given a state burial, attended by numerous political figures and few faithful.

Fr. Li Shan’s election is the first to take place in China following the publication of Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Catholics of China.  The procedure for his appointment was formally “independent”, in so far as he was elected by an assembly comprising priests, nuns and lay people and not nominated by the Pope.  He will similarly be confirmed by the Council of Bishops, a group which the Pope wrote in his Letter, “cannot be recognised as an Episcopal conference of the Apostolic See”.

Regarding the choice of Fr. Li Shan, officially, the Vatican has limited itself to following the situation “with great attention” but without any comment.  Instead, according to Chinese Catholic sources, the name of Fr. Li Shan was among those put forward for the post of Beijing archbishop which did not raise objections in Rome, even in the absence an “accord”.

Fr. Giuseppe Li Shan, in fact, is considered across the board as a good and true pastor.  A man of faith, capable of relating to both the faithful and the political authorities.  He is a native of Beijing; his family has a deep rooted Catholic tradition, giving him an advantage over someone not from the area.  He has never travelled abroad, not even for study.  If this creates some difficulties regarding international relations, on the other hand it makes him to a “national product” in the eyes of the faithful and the authorities.

In his relations with the Patriotic Association he has been most succinct, rejecting the power of the AP.  In recent years he has fought against the forced expropriation of Church property in his parish (Dong Tang) by members of the AP and the “secretary” of Fu Tieshan, Chen Maoju. This is why the faithful of Beijing admire him.  His opposition to the AP and Fu’s gang also put him in a good light with the local and national government.

Currently he is the parish priest of St Joseph’s (Dong Tang), in Beijing’s shopping area of Wangfujin.

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  1. woodyjones says:

    So does the SSPX just need to submit the names of the four bishops to Rome and they will be approved?

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    It still will be a consacration sine mandato.

    And, in the case of Wojtyla, in reply to a post above, it is important to remember that, in the case of Poland, consacrations were performed with pontifical mandate, despite the adoption of a nominations procedure that included State interference in the choices of the Holy See.

  3. Dr. Peter H. Wright says:

    I wonder if he knows about “Summorum Ponitificum” yet …

  4. Alex says:

    Instead, according to Chinese Catholic sources, the name of Fr. Li Shan was among those put forward for the post of Beijing archbishop which did not raise objections in Rome, even in the absence an “accord”

    That is what I continue to find so weird. In 1988 at Ec̫ne Рat a time when compromising Ostpolitik with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and continental China was in full motion Рthere was made a huge fuzz over the appointment of an episcopal nominee, while in this case the Holy See seems to have given to a communist-controlled institution a Рlimited Рcarte blanche for an episcopal nomination.

    This is entirely unpastoral indeed. And historically it remains a disturbing fact that the Society of St. Pius X was never even given one concrete episcopal nominee, while Chinese “independent Catholics” get a virtual carte blanche from the very same Vatican, ruled by the Cardinal, now pope, who was the negotiator in 1988 with the Ecône movement (SSPX).

    I continue to stun and be embittered over these observed facts of mine. They totally present us with a political and opportunist picture of Vatican episcopal policy. A sad thing indeed.

  5. Alex says:

    Prof. Basto,

    In Czechoslovakia – unlike in “liberal” communist Poland – the communist authorities really persecuted the underground Catholic Church and almost hundred unannounced episcopal consecrations were conferred without pontifical mandates from 1949 to 1990. From these however many were never formally recognized by the Apostolic See, given the problematic and often secretive circumstances (not to mention the scandals around Bishop Felix Maria Davídek). However many of them were recognized, some reconsecrated sub conditione, and they are now ordinaries, cardinals or retired bishops. The same things happened with Bishop Michel-Joseph Bourguignon d’Herbigny, S.J., the bishops who he consecrated however all were murdered by Stalin’s NKVD before they could even confer a real amount of sacraments. In 1977 at Castel Gandolfo, virtually underneath the bedroom of pope Paul VI, however Josyf Ivanovycè Cardinal Slipyj conferred – without pontifical mandate and therefore illegally – the episcopal ordination upon
    Bishop Ivan Choma †
    Lubomyr Cardinal Husar
    Bishop Stepan Chmil, S.D.B.

    These illegal episcopal ordinations Рconferred by Slipyj in an event to show his Patriarchal (of Kiev) aspirations Рwere however all three recognized despite them being conferred not for secret Eastern block apostolate, but for western free world Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches and schools. They caused a lot of irritations in Rome and the Curia especially, but unlike the huge and vicious attack upon the naive Archbishop Ng̫ Dinh Thuc in 1976 (Palmar de Troya) and 1981 (Toulon, sedevacantists) after his illegal episcopal consecrations, the Ukrainian Cardinal was not reprimanded and the consecrati were not even alleviated from excommunication.

    It proves there are serious problems in the consequency and logicality of the Holy See judging and evaluating illegal episcopal consecrations.

    In communist China it seems since 1985 that virtually all illegally consecrated ánd schismatically installed (over jurisdictions, unlike the SSPX bishops) are immediately recognized and “accepted into full communion” by Rome.

    Of course there is also the problem with the SSPX bishops pertinaciously disagreeing over doctrinal and disciplinary issues with the current Holy See institutions. They do not actively seek recognition, but nevertheless dialogue.

    It seems however that “on the left” and inside their own ranks (cardinals) the Roman Curia in the past has been excessively more lenient and “pastoral” and “tolerant” than towards the “right-wingers” (SSPX consecrations etc.)

    And that is very disappointing. Especially given the fact that the simple faithful demand from the Roman Catholic Church (they associate decisions with the Church in itself) justice and fairness in the spirit of the Gospel, not church and secular politics mixed together as in the Ostpolitik, China and Lefebvre cases.

  6. Michael R says:

    I think Cardinal Slipyji took the position that a Papal mandate was not necessary for the consecration of bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church under Eastern canon law (before the promulgation of the Oriental Code).

  7. dustiam says:

    Is anyone really surprised to hear that the new Beijing Archbishop is being praised by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state?

  8. Justin says:

    I find it strange that the SSPX are dragged into nearly every discussion as if they were some heroes given the members known antipathy towards the Holy Father and the cafeteria-type Catholicism evidenced by the society’s leader Bishop Fellay.

    To me, as someone who loves the extraordinary use of the Church’s liturgy and along with everyone else celebrated the recent motu proprio, there is still a world of difference between the SSPX and the situation of Catholics in China. The complete lack of sympathy for Catholics in China in the comments so far is staggering. You have to remember that regardless of whether these are underground Catholics, or those out in the open, both of them are in mortal peril threatened with life and limb for practicing (or wanting to) practice their faith. Contrast this to the situation of the SSPX where they have set up chapels sometimes down the street from a church which has the extraordinary use of the Mass.

    Instead of this tremendous sense of sour grapes that I get from the comment box, surely the correct reaction that the Vatican is not actively against this news, should be cause for rejoicing for Catholics everywhere. The situation in China is far more complicated and more tense than many on here seem to believe, and understanding and support for our Chinese brethren seems to be sorely lacking.

  9. Alex says:


    I do have much understanding for the situation of the Catholics in China and do not look at it in a black and white term, but the canonical precedents made in the Chinese situation are really grave. We should show at least pastoral sollicitude for those Catholics who feel obliged to attend the Patriotic parishes…

    As to the SSPX, which is offtopic here:
    Contrast this to the situation of the SSPX where they have set up chapels sometimes down the street from a church which has the extraordinary use of the Mass.

    This is not true. I am an expert and in most cases the Indult Mass was only allowed after the Society of St. Pius X had gained a chapel and a community there. I know about 50 places where this was the case, and ZERO where it was the other way around.

    As to doctrine it is unfair to call the SSPX “cafeteria-Catholic”. They adhere faithfully to all dogma. There disciplinary problems and of course a polemical position of calling Dignitatis Humanae “heretical” and yet accepting the post-conciliar popes. That is true. I do not consider DH formally heretical, and the SSPX needs to address some theological notions of itself. On the other hand Assisi Conferences (1986/2002), ecumenism, intercommunion (Frere Roger), and the practical application of Dignitatis Humanae under Paul VI by e.g. Benelli have so gravely ruptured the “modern Vatican” from the Holy See under e.g. Pius XII or Leo XIII, that it is nearly impossible not to be confused and offended, provided one is a serious Roman Catholic Christian. The SSPX acted in a pastoral emergency situation. It is not for nothing that before his in 2001, in 2000 Vincentas Cardinal Sladkevicius, M.I.C. told the religious sisters associated with him to “join up with the Lefebvre priests (…) they will restore the Church in Lithuania”. And up until 1988 Giuseppe Cardinal Siri greatly loved Archbishop Lefebvre and understood the necessity of the SSPX’s apostolate worldwide.

    I think that together with a pastoral attitude towards the difficult situationed Catholics of mainland China, we must also show such an openness and pastoral sollicitude and understanding towards the SSPX. And in this light, the refusal of the Vatican in 1988 to accept Bernard Fellay as a candidate for episcopal ordination (back then only one in number initially), cannot be understood but through the lens of intense church politics and aversion from Tradition. Not merely from Lefebvre and his problems, but from Tradition, the Traditional Roman Rite, and orthodox interpretation of Roman Catholic doctrine of all time.

    And I am not even an Lefebvrist!

  10. Alex says:

    Addendum: Sladkevicius died in 2000. He was consecrated a bishop in 1957 under emergency, in a parish house cellar, without the pontifical mandate (the Lithuanians in 1949 had received carte blance from the Vatican for secret consecrations as contacting the Vatican far way would have been too dangerous for the candidate). He was imprisoned by the communists often.

  11. L'Abbé Paul McDonald says:


    In the diocese of Saint Catharines we have peacefully had a weekly Latin Mass, axcording to the 1962 Missale romanum every Sunday morning since Advent, 2005. The SSPX moved in after the fact about seven years ago.

  12. Rose says:

    The situation in China is certtainly very complex and we need to be very careful in judging the situation. When I attended a seminar Cardinal Zen gave in HK regarding the Pope’s letter, I was astonished that a majority of questions from the audience (the hall had capacity for 200 and was completely full) had to do with the “licitness” or “illicitness” of liturgical celebrations, concelebrations and sacraments being offered or given by “open church” vs. ‘underground’ priests. It was truly moving because of the sense it conveyed, an anxiety arising from profound hunger for the spiritual nourishment and comfort of the faith and the comfort of the Church. Certainly different from the usual Q & A at your average North American parish. I came away with much greater appreciation and gratitude for the Pope’s letter; he showed a true grasp of the griefs and anxieties of the faithful in China.

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