Landmark deal signed between Vatican and China

A landmark deal on appointing new bishops was signed on Saturday between the Vatican and China’s ruling Communist Party.

While welcoming the breakthrough “provisional agreement,” China’s Catholic Church reaffirmed its loyalty to the country’s ruling Communist Party on Sunday.

The Vatican says the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China was signed “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.”

In a joint statement, the Vatican and the Beijing government said the agreement is “the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement” and expresses the desire that the “agreement may favour a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue.”

Pointing to the significance of the move, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said simply: “Today, for the first time after decades, all the bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome.”

Almost since the establishment of the Communist People’s Republic of China in 1949, Catholics in the country have been split into two groups.

One group is an underground organisation that recognizes the pope and his authority over naming bishops.

The other is a state-supported “Patriotic Catholic Association” that names its own bishops.

Francis has made resolving the question of episcopal appointments in China one of his diplomatic priorities.

In a statement on the Vatican’s behalf about the new agreement, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See’s objective in signing it is pastoral.

“The Holy See intends just to create the condition or help to create the condition of a greater freedom, autonomy and organization,” he said.

In doing so, Parolin said the Church can “dedicate itself to the mission of announcing the Gospel and …contribute to the well-being and to the spiritual and material prosperity and harmony of the country, of every person and of the world as a whole.”

The effect of the agreement is already being felt.

As Parolin noted, “… for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter.”


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