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China Appoints Bishop Approved by Pope

Chinese officials say the state's Catholic church has appointed a new bishop, a day after Beijing lashed out at the Vatican for criticizing its unauthorized ordination of two other bishops.

A vice-chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Liu Bainian, said Father Paul Pei Junmin was named assistant bishop of the northeastern city of Shenyang Sunday.

A Vatican-affiliated news agency, AsiaNews, reports that Pei was approved by Pope Benedict XVI. But China's ordination of two other bishops without papal approval last week sparked outrage from the Vatican, which threatened to excommunicate those who took part in the process.

China's State Administration of Religious Affairs said Saturday the Vatican's criticism of the appointments "made no sense."

The administration said Beijing informed the Vatican about its plan to ordain the bishops but received no response from the Holy See.

Chinese authorities insist that without bishops, there can be no churches.

The Chinese communists broke ties with the Holy See in 1951 and set up the Patriotic Association as the only Catholic body recognized by the state. In effect, it became the only open and legal means for Chinese Catholics to practice their faith. Millions have since worshipped in underground churches, risking imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Vatican currently has diplomatic relations with the Taiwan government - Beijing's rival - but says it is willing to switch its recognition to Beijing if the matter of who appoints bishops for China's Catholics can be resolved.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.