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.