Two bishops from mainland China will take part in the Synod on the future of the Church, the Holy See Press Office announced on September 21, 2023. The full list of participants, which has been updated and could change again, includes 464 people, 365 of whom will be able to vote.
The General Assembly on the Synod on Synodality will take place in Rome from October 4 to 29, as part of the process started in 2021 by Pope Francis.
There is no bishops’ conference recognized by the Vatican in mainland China. There is the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CPCA proposed the names of two Chinese bishops as possible participants to the synod. Pope Francis accepted and added them to the list of members nominated by the Pontiff.
The two Chinese bishops
The first Chinese bishop to come to Rome will be Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining. He was appointed by Pope Francis to this diocese in Inner Mongolia, a region in China, on August 26, 2019. This appointment was one of the first fruits of the 2018 agreement between China and the Holy See on the appointment of bishops. In fact in 2018 two Chinese bishops were able to participate in the Synod on Young people, thanks to the agreement.
The second bishop is Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun. He was appointed to this diocese in 2013 with the agreement of the Holy See and the Chinese government. Bishop Yongqiang has already taken part in several meetings outside China, including a gathering in Bologna organized by Sant’Egidio in 2018. He is today the vice-president of the CPCA.
Already on the list of participants is Bishop of Hong Kong, Stephen Chow, who will be created a cardinal shortly before the start of the Synod, and will be taking part as a member nominated by the Pontiff; and Taiwanese Bishop Norbert Pu of the diocese of Chiayi, who was designated to participate as a representative of the episcopal conference of Taiwan.
Other changes to the list
With the addition of the two Chinese prelates, the list of members has changed slightly since it was first presented on July 7. It has increased from 363 to 365 — including Pope Francis. In the July list, the now former Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, was included but he has since asked not to participate and has been removed.
Certain new participants have also been added to the list as substitutes for people who may not be able to attend due to health, personal, or other reasons. Additionally, a few others have been added whose names had not been included in the July version. For example, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, is now on the list.
During the synod the participants will be divided into language groups of around 10 or 11 people to reflect on the themes. There will be 35 groups: 14 in English, 8 in Italian, 7 in Spanish, 5 in French, 1 in Portuguese.
There are also a total of 99 people who have been appointed to accompany the forthcoming synod in various ways, for example as expert theologians or as officials of the Secretariat of State. This brings the total number of synod participants to 464.