Shortage of Bishops a major problem for Chinese Catholics

11 dioceses are awaiting approval of their elected spiritual leaders.

Beijing: Amid reports of crack down on
mushrooming House Churches in China, a Chinese Catholic
official said appointments of large number of Bishops were
pending, affecting the functioning of the religion.

A total of 11 dioceses are awaiting approval of their
elected spiritual leaders, Bishop John Fang Xingyao, chairman
of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) said.

Also 44 out of 97 Catholic dioceses on the Chinese
mainland currently do not have a bishop, which has hindered
the spreading of the Gospel for the estimated six million
believers in China, he said.

"The election of bishops and their consecration are
the top priorities. We encourage the 44 dioceses to elect
their spiritual leaders if the situation permits," he told
state run China Daily in an interview.

His comments came amid reports that a dozen
worshippers from a Christian house church were arrested
yesterday here when they attempted to hold prayer services in
a public space after they were evicted from their earlier
place of worship.

Christians in China are permitted to worship only in
state-run churches, which are often over crowded.

As a result house churches have gained popularity as
Sunday prayers were held in homes of faithful.

CCPA said the number of Chinese Catholics has surged
by a million over the past decade.

Nearly 300 Catholic churches were built across the
country from 2004 to 2010, taking their number to about 6,300,
it said.

Recent official media reports said China has about 23
million Christians.

Despite the increase, Catholicism in China is
challenged by a shortage of bishops and priests, the Daily

Fang admitted that the consecration of bishops is
facing many obstacles "In some dioceses, it would be premature
to carry out consecrations, while in others there is a
shortage of candidates or the candidates are still not
qualified," he said.

Ever since Communist Party came to power, Chinese
Catholics have been adhering to the principle of independent
selection and consecration of bishops, cutting economic and
political relations with the Vatican.