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Pope approves Shanghai bishop as Vatican chides China for lack of consultation

by Reuters Journalist

Pope Francis has approved a new bishop of Shanghai as the Vatican chided China for transferring him there without consultation, in violation of bi-lateral accords.

A Vatican statement on Saturday said the pope had named Bishop Joseph Shen Bin to head the vacant Shanghai diocese position.

But Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, said in an interview issued separately that it had not been consulted when Shen was moved to Shanghai from the diocese of Haimen, in Jiangsu province.

Parolin said the unilateral move went against "the spirit of dialogue and collaboration" stipulated in a landmark 2018 accord on the naming of bishops.

Conservative Catholics have criticised the secret accord as a sellout to communist China, but the Vatican has defended it as an imperfect means to have some form of dialogue with the authorities for the good of Chinese Catholics. 

The pope had decided to approve Shen "for the greater good" of the Shanghai diocese and because Shen was an "esteemed pastor," Parolin said in the interview with internal Vatican media outlets.

It is the latest dispute between the Vatican and China over the transfer of a bishop.

In November, the Vatican accused Chinese authorities of violating the 2018 pact by installing a bishop in a diocese not recognised by the Holy See.

The pact was a bid to ease a longstanding divide across mainland China between an underground flock loyal to the pope and a state-backed official church. For the first time since the 1950s, both sides recognised the pope as supreme leader of the Catholic Church.

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