A diocese in central China has ordained the country's first Catholic bishop in three years amid strained relations between Beijing and the Vatican.

Catholic websites says the Rev. Joseph Zhang Yinlin was named co-adjutor bishop of Anyang in Henan province, under tight security on Tuesday.

AsiaNews.it says Zhang's ordination took part with the approval of the Vatican, with which Beijing has no formal relations.

That could indicate a return to an arrangement under which Chinese authorities, who claim the sole right to appoint bishops, name candidates that are then tacitly accepted by the Vatican.

Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was the last Chinese bishop ordained in 2012.

He has not been seen in public since his ordination, during which he renounced membership in the Communist Party-run Catholic association, angering officials.