Bishop Yao graduated in 1996 from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota (USA) with a degree in liturgy. 

The first ordination of a bishop since the signing of the historic Vatican-China provisional agreement on 22 September 2018 in Beijing has taken place in the Diocese of Jining (also known as Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia), China.

Father Anthony Yao Shun, 54, of the Diocese of Jining, was ordained at the city’s Our Lady of Rosary Cathedral on 26 August 2019.  At the Mass of Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu (Hohhot), Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), presided and served as Principal Consecrator, with Bishops Matthias Du Jiang (Bameng, Inner Mongolia), Paul Meng Ningyou (Taiyuan, Shanxi Province), and Joseph Li Jing (Ningxia, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region) concelebrating and serving as Principal Co-Consecrators.

During the liturgy, an approval letter by the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) was read aloud, declaring that Bishop Yao had been elected “according to the tradition of the election of bishops by the Holy Church and the regulation of the BCCCC.”  It continued, “After verification and a valid election, we give official approval now. This candidate was approved by the Pope.”

The 2018 Vatican-China agreement concerns episcopal nominations. While its contents never have been disclosed officially, several Vatican experts have indicated that in the agreement, China recognizes the need for a bishop to be appointed by the Roman Pontiff.  It is possible that this ordination is the fruit of a new agreement mechanism.  Although he is the first ordained bishop since the Vatican-China agreement was signed, some say that Bishop Yao actually was approved secretly by the Vatican many years ago, in 2010.  It is said that an additional 20 candidates for bishop have been approved by the Vatican and await ratification of their appointments by the Chinese government.

According to local sources, the ordination Mass was overseen by a minimal government security presence and ran smoothly. More than 120 priests coming from Jining and other dioceses concelebrated the liturgy, with 50 nuns and more than 1,000 Catholic faithful also participating.

A diocesan priest, identifying himself as Joseph, noted that the Diocese of Jining has focused on evangelization and connecting with local Catholics.  “God uses bishops as a visible sign to lead us and manage the Church. I think Bishop Yao has plans for how to develop the diocese,” Father Joseph said.

Another priest of the diocese, who identifies himself as Peter, shared that he hopes Bishop Yao will lead the Church’s search for more space to allow its further development.

Bishop Yao formerly served as the vicar general of the Diocese of Jining, which currently has approximately 70,000 faithful, 31 priests and 12 nuns; he was elected by church members on 9 April 2019.  His predecessor, Bishop John Liu Shigong, died on 9 June 2017, with the diocese remaining vacant since that time. The diocese was founded on 8 February 1929, and the Marian shrine of Mozishan is located in the heart of the diocese.

Bishop Yao was born in Ulanqab in 1965 and was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1991 after completing studies at the National Seminary in Beijing, China. From 1994 to 1998, he studied in the United States, pursuing a specialization in liturgy at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota (USA), and then spent a period of time in Jerusalem to devote himself to Biblical studies.

In the 1990s, Bishop Yao also taught and worked as spiritual director at the National Seminary, carrying out significant work in the liturgical commission that depends on the Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops, serving from 1998 to 2004 as Secretary and from 2004 until the present day as Vice Director. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010.

Bishop Yao has chosen the motto of the 2015-2016 Jubilee also to be his own: Misericordes sicut pater (“Be merciful as your Father is merciful”).  Bishop Yao explained that he indeed hopes to be merciful like both Jesus and the heavenly Father, saying “May the Scripture inspire us to have more wisdom, and may the Sacraments nourish our lives.”

Article adapted from UCA News and sources.

BREAKING NEWSThe Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, responding to questions from journalists, has confirmed that Monsignor Anthony Yao Shun, “consecrated bishop of Jining / Wulanchabu, in Inner Mongolia (China), has received the pontifical mandate, as affirmed also by the consecrating bishop during the course of the ceremony” that took place on Monday 26 August 2019.  His “episcopal consecration”, remarked Bruni, “is the first to happen within the context of the provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018”.  Successively, the director also confirmed that Monsignor Stephen Xu Hongwei, consecrated on Wednesday 28 August 2019 as Coadjutor Bishop of Hanzhong (Shaanxi), “has received the pontifical mandate and his ordination took place within the context of the provisional Agreement”.