The Vatican said on Saturday it had signed a historic joint agreement with China on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops.
The Provisional Agreement was signed in the hope that it will contribute positively to the life of the Church in China, the good of the Chinese people and peace in the world.
“Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Media reports have for months said that Pope Francis was ready to accept the legitimacy of several bishops appointed by the Chinese government in order to restore diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican, which were frozen in 1951.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that Beijing authorities would likely give the pope veto powers on future bishop appointments, although this has not been confirmed.
Under the deal, two Vatican-aligned Chinese bishops, recognized by the pope, have been asked by a top Vatican diplomat to resign in favor of state-sanctioned prelates.
Human rights groups have labelled the agreement a “sell-out” by the Vatican, at a time when Beijing is waging the most systematic suppression of Christianity in decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is trying to infuse all religions in China with “Chinese characteristics” such as loyalty to the Communist Party, academics have argued.
Over the last few months, local governments across China have shut down hundreds of private Christian “house churches.”
The full statement states:
“Today, 22nd September 2018, within the framework of the contacts between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China that have been underway for some time in order to discuss Church matters of common interest and to promote further understanding, a meeting was held in Beijing between Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and H.E. Mr Wang Chao, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, respectively heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations. During that meeting, the two representatives signed a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops. The above-mentioned Provisional Agreement, which is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application. It concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level. The shared hope is that this agreement may favour a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.”
Reuters / Vatican News / DW / WSJ