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Vatican confirms underground prelate as Bishop of Wenzhou

But government approved priest is effectively overseeing the diocese

September 22, 2016

The Holy See has confirmed that underground Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin has become the Bishop of Wenzhou in China’s southeast Zhejiang province, following the death of Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang on Sept. 7.

"In accordance with canon law, Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, coadjutor of the same diocese, succeeds the deceased prelate," said the Holy See on Sept. 21 in a press bulletin that mainly focused on the memory of Bishop Zhu and the work he achieved for the Catholic Church in China.

However, a young priest, Father Ma Xianshi, instead of Bishop Shao, is now effectively overseeing Wenzhou Diocese. Father Ma was named to head the government approved open community by Bishop Zhu in March as the prelate's health was failing.

Bishop Shao has not joined the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and as such is part of the underground church not recognized by the communist government.

Bishop Shao — and three of his priests — was taken on "gardening leave" by authorities to the far-flung province of Gansu to prevent him presiding over Bishop Zhu's funeral.

He was returned to Wenzhou after the funeral but is reportedly being monitored by police.

The government will only recognize Bishop Shao if he joins the CCPA and concelebrates Mass with a bishop whom the Vatican does not recognize, according to Chinese observers.

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