A Chinese Catholic bishop has been ordained with the joint approval of the Vatican and Beijing for the first time under an agreement intended to encourage a rapprochement between China and the Holy See.

The official church, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said Yao Shun was ordained as bishop of the diocese of Ulanqab in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Monday.

The law in China requires priests and bishops to register and align with the country’s official church.

The mainland’s roughly 12 million Catholics have for decades been split between a government-run association, whose clergy were chosen by the atheist Communist Party, and an unofficial underground church loyal to the Vatican.

But under the terms of the deal agreed in September last year, both Beijing and the Vatican will now have a say in appointing Catholic bishops.

Vatican said the bishop, who it named as Antonio Yao Shun, had “received the Papal Mandate” at the ordination, according to a statement by Matteo Bruni of the Holy See press office.

It said the ordination was the “first to take place in the framework of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China”, which severed diplomatic relations in 1951.

According to a report in the state-run Global Times on Wednesday, China faces a shortage of bishops, with around a third of the 98 dioceses having no bishops and many older bishops set to retire.

State media reports said another Chinese bishop was set to be ordained on Wednesday, although the official church did not confirm this. (AFP)