Bishop Shen Bin was installed as the Bishop of Shanghai on April 4, 2023 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This was done without consultation and prior knowledge of the Vatican. In a terse statement released to the media and reported on its publication Vatican News, the Vatican said “The Holy See had been informed a few days ago of the decision of the Chinese authorities” to transfer the Bishop and “learned from the media of the installation this morning”.
On July 15, 2023, three months after Beijing’s move to install the new Bishop of Shanghai, the Vatican in a compromise move Pope Francis appointed Bishop Shen Bin as the Bishop of Shanghai. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Cardinal Secretary of State, gave an interview with Vatican media and explained that the Pope “decided nevertheless to rectify the canonical irregularity” for the “greater good of the diocese.” Cardinal Parolin, however, also stated that the manner in which Beijing proceeded with the installation “seems to disregard the spirit of dialogue and collaboration established between the Vatican and the Chinese side over the years and to which is referred in the Agreement.” The implication that China breached the agreement is clear.
The agreement that Cardinal Parolin is referring to is the Vatican-China “Provisional Agreement” of 2018 which was renewed in 2020 and 2022. The agreement primarily dealt with the appointment of Catholic bishops in China. The text of the agreement has not been made public, but it is believed that the Vatican and the CCP agreed to cooperate in the selection of the bishops.
Cardinal Parolin in his interview with Vatican media reiterated the Vatican’s desire for dialogue and expressed hopes for the opening of a permanent Holy See liaison office in China. He called for “open dialogue” and “respectful encounter with the Chinese side”. “We have signed an Agreement that can be defined as historic,” but it “needs, however, to be applied in its entirety and in the most correct manner possible,” the Cardinal said.