Papal approval was said to have been given to China's appointee as assistant bishop of Shenyang, the largest city in the country's northeast, following criticism from the Vatican when it wasn't consulted on two earlier appointments. Despite the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association's assertion that it had no contact with representatives of Pope Benedict XVI over the appointment of the Rev. Paolo Pei Junmin, the Vatican-affiliated AsiaNews agency insisted that dialogue had taken place. Official ties between China's Catholics and the Vatican ended when communist rule began in 1949, although informal contact has seen most Chinese bishops receive papal approval. This changed last week when Beijing independently ordained two bishops, prompting the Vatican to warn that those involved could be excommunicated.