China said Thursday it was seeking “continuous improvement” of ties with the Vatican, after the Church announced the ordination of its third Chinese bishop in one week.
Pietro Wu Yishun, 59, was ordained the bishop of Shaowu city in China’s southeastern province of Fujian, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
He was nominated by Pope Francis under a historic but secretive 2018 deal allowing both sides a say in appointing bishops in communist China.
Two other Chinese bishops were ordained with the Vatican’s approval this week in Zhengzhou, in the central province of Henan, and in the new diocese of Weifang.
Asked about the ordinations, Beijing’s foreign ministry said that “China and the Vatican have maintained communication in recent years”.
“The provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops signed by the two parties has been well implemented,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.
“China is willing to push for continuous improvement of bilateral relations with the Vatican in the spirit of mutual respect and equal dialogue,” he said.
The recent appointment of the bishops represents a thaw between Beijing and the Holy See over the sensitive issue.
The Vatican expressed its “regrets” in 2022 and 2023 after the unilateral appointment of two bishops by Beijing — including one in Shanghai, the largest Catholic diocese in the country — indirectly accusing it of having violated the 2018 agreement.
The deal, renewed in 2020 and 2022, is designed to bring closer together Catholics caught between the official state-backed church in China and an underground movement loyal to Rome and the pontiff as the church’s supreme leader.
It also provides for greater cooperation between the Vatican and Beijing, while affording the pope the final say in the appointment of Chinese bishops.