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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 09:44 GMT
China installs Rome-backed bishop
Vatican-backed Li Shan at his installation as Bishop of Beijing in September
In September, Vatican-backed Li Shan became Bishop of Beijing
China's state-run Catholic Church has installed a bishop who is said to have been approved by the Vatican.

Joseph Gan Junqiu, 43, was installed as Bishop of Guangzhou in a service at the southern city's Sacred Heart Cathedral.

The move comes amid some signs that tensions between China and the Vatican are easing.

China broke off relations with the Vatican over 50 years ago and the two sides have clashed over issues such as the ordination of bishops and Taiwan.

The country'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.

Beijing insists that it has the right to appoint bishops without approval from Rome - something to which the Vatican has reacted angrily in the past.

'Picked by us'

Bishop Gan's installation was closed to the media but people were able to watch the service on a television nearby, Reuters news agency said.

Both his appointment and that of Lu Shouwang last week as Bishop of Yichang were backed by the Vatican, media reports said.

Lu Guocun, vice-chairman of China's Catholic Patriotic Association, stressed the new bishop was Beijing's choice.

"If they (the Vatican) approve the bishops that we select, this is a good development ... We don't oppose their approval, but this bishop was picked by us last year in October," he said.

In recent months Pope Benedict XVI has sought to improve relations with China, sending a letter in June which offered dialogue with Chinese authorities.

And in September, in another sign of a thaw, Father Joseph Li Shan was installed as Bishop of Beijing, the first for over 50 years to have tacit approval of the Pope.

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