CV NEWS FEED // The Holy See Press office announced this week that Pope Francis has abolished an old Apostolic Vicariate in China and created instead a new diocese that follows the geographical redrawing of the region made by the Communist government.
The Vatican announced on January 29:
in the desire to promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good, on 20 April 2023, the Supreme Pontiff Francis decided to abolish the Apostolic Prefecture of Yiduxian in Mainland China, which was erected on 16 June 1931 by Pope Pius XI and at the same time to erect the new Diocese of Weifang, suffragan of Jinan, Shandong Province, with episcopal seat in the cathedral church of Christ the King, located in Qingzhou, city of Weifang.
The decision follows a complex process aimed at appeasing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and allowing the Catholic Church in China to operate in the context of the temporary agreement between China and the Holy See.
According to an analysis from the Italian Catholic agency Asia News, which specializes in China and the Far East, the Apostolic Prefecture suppressed today by the Pope was vacant since the death in 2008 of Bishop Joseph Sun Zhibi. Zhibi was one of five bishops ordained by Beijing illegitimately (without papal consent) on 24 April 1988, but who eventually asked for and obtained permission to return to communion with Rome.
The new Diocese of Weifang, whose borders now follow the urban divisions created by the Communist government, was officially established on Monday, January 29, with the consecration of Bishop Anthony Sun Wenjun.
“Today’s is the first formal creation of a diocese by the Holy See in China since Mao’s communist revolution. In fact, it is simply a geographical rearrangement of China’s dioceses by Chinese authorities in Beijing,” Asia News explained:
The establishment of a diocese in Weifang is therefore an adaptation to this new geography, decided by the authorities and adopted over the years by the Church bodies controlled by the Party.
Asia News added that “the elevation from apostolic prefecture to diocese is linked to the current structure of the ‘official’ Church in China with no distinctions of rank: all are dioceses, without metropolitan archdioceses (including Beijing) or apostolic prefectures.”
According to Chinese authorities, there are 104 dioceses in China (excluding Macau and Hong Kong), redesigned following the boundaries of the civil administration.