Hopeful signs suggest Vatican and Beijing may meet half-way

Hopeful signs suggest the Vatican and Beijing may meet half-way on who has the right to select and appoint mainland China’s bishops.

Just who should be entitled to choose bishops has been a stumbling block between the Vatican and mainland China since 1951.

Cardinal John Tong, who is the head of the Catholic church in Hong Kong, said a “preliminary consensus has reportedly been reached” on the matter.

He believes the consensus negotiated will enable the Pope to retain veto power over the ordination of mainland Chinese bishops under the new arrangement.

Beijing has always insisted a party-controlled body have the authority to appoint Chinese bishops.

The Holy See says this power belongs to the Pope alone.

A number of government-backed bishops have been ordained in past years without the pope’s approval, straining ties between Rome and Beijing.

Pope Francis has repeatedly made clear his desire for rapprochement with Beijing.

Mainland China’s head of religious affairs, Wang Zuo’an, said in December that Beijing was open to constructive dialogue with the Vatican.

However, he said it would only be open if China’s Catholics “hold up high the flag of patriotism” and adapt Catholicism to Chinese society.

The community of as many as 12 million mainland Catholics is split between those who follow state-authorized churches outside the pope’s authority and those who attend underground churches that swear fealty to the pope ” sometimes at the risk of persecution.





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