The Vatican announced on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, the appointment of Father Peter Wu Yishun as the bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Shaowu (Minbei), making it the third appointment of a bishop in mainland China in just a week.
According to the announcement, Father Peter Wu was nominated as bishop of Shaowu, which is situated in the southeastern coastal province of Fujian, on December 16, 2023, “within the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.”
The Mass of episcopal consecration was celebrated in the Church of Chengguan in the district of Jianyang in the city of Nanping, and was celebrated by Joseph Li Shan, who is the archbishop of Beijing, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), and the vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
In attendance, were three other bishops, 80 priests, and approximately 360 religious and laypeople, per an official statement from the state-run Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC).
The statement went on to note that Father Wu was “elected as the bishop-designate of the Northern Fujian Diocese on January 18, 2022.”
Peter Wu Yishun was born on December 7, 1964, and received his theological formation at the Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai. Peter was ordained to the holy priesthood on August 15, 1992, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, for the Diocese of Xiamen.
Following his ordination Peter served as a parish priest in the city of Nanping and as the head of the apostolic prefectures of Shaowu and Jian’ou.
According to a report by a Vatican news outlet, in November 2021, Father Peter Wu spoke at a seminar in support of the government’s program of religious sinicization, saying “the Catholic faith and local Chinese culture have truly achieved ‘harmony’ and mutual integration, and this ‘harmony’ represents the fulcrum and suggests the right direction for ‘sinicization’ of Catholicism.”
The announcement of Peter’s appointment came amid an unprecedented swiftness on the part of the Holy See, as he is the third bishop appointed in China in less than a week, signaling a rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China.
On January 25, 2024, Father Thaddeus Wang Yuesheng was consecrated as bishop of Zhengzhou, thus bringing an end to a 70-year-long vacancy in the diocese to an end.
Several days later, on Tuesday, January 30, the Holy See also announced the suppression of the Apostolic Prefecture of Yiduxian to create the new Diocese of Weifang, corresponding with the administrative boundaries of the Chinese state. The press release noted that the Holy Father established the diocese on April 20, 2023, “in the desire to promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend more effectively to its spiritual good.”
The press release also reported that Father Anthony Sun Venjun, 53, was ordained as the first bishop of the newly created diocese on the same day.
These recent developments signal a restoration of harmony in Sino-Vatican relations after Joseph Shen Bin was unilaterally appointed by Chinese authorities as the bishop of Shanghai in April 2023 — thereby violating the terms of the accord — and retroactively approved by the pope in July 2023. It was the second unauthorized appointment by Chinese authorities that year.
The Sino-Vatican agreement was for the first time renewed in 2020, and again in 2022. It is expected to be again renewed in October 2024.