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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
China installs Pope-backed bishop
Joseph Li Shan
China severed ties with the Vatican in 1951 over its Taiwan dispute
A new Roman Catholic bishop of Beijing has been consecrated in the Chinese capital, the first for over 50 years to have tacit approval of the Pope.

Father Joseph Li Shan, 42, was made bishop at a ceremony in a cathedral near Tiananmen Square.

His predecessor was appointed by the government-controlled Catholic Church without consulting the Vatican.

China severed ties with the Vatican in 1951, amid anger at the Vatican's recognition of Taiwan.

However, a recent letter from the Pope led to thawing of bilateral relations, correspondents say.

There has been no formal approval from the Vatican over the recent appointment.

But when it was announced in July, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said that Father Li was "very good, well-suited", calling his appointment "a positive sign".

Pope's letter

China's estimated eight to 12 million Catholics are split between the Beijing-backed Patriotic Church and an underground Church which remains loyal to the Vatican.

Relations between the two sides have been strained due to Beijing's insistence that the Patriotic Church has the right to appoint bishops without Rome's approval.

Chinese Catholic church in Shanghai

The Vatican excommunicated two bishops last year for being illegally ordained.

But Pope Benedict XVI has sought to improve relations between the two sides.

In June he sent a letter to Chinese Catholics urging reconciliation and offering dialogue with the Chinese authorities.

He also stressed that Rome had already accepted the full authority of many of the bishops appointed unilaterally by the Beijing-tolerated Church.

But as recently as last year there were bitter exchanges between Rome and Beijing, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

The Pope expressed "profound sorrow" at the decision of the Chinese to appoint new bishops without referring to Rome and the Beijing government accused the Vatican of interfering in China's internal affairs.

Reaction from Beijing as the new bishop was consecrated

Chinese bishop offers hope of unity
21 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China ordains successor to bishop
10 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Vatican welcomes new China bishop
19 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China Church 'chooses new bishop'
18 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China Church welcomes Pope letter
02 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Pope rallies split Chinese flock
30 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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