Vatican defends discussions with China

The Vatican is defending its continued discussions with China about bishop nominations.

Critics of the 2018 accord say Francis sold out the underground faithful.

But the deal was – and is – necessary to the life of the Catholic Church in China, says Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In the Holy See’s most authoritative and comprehensive response to critics of the extended accord, Parolin says popes as far back as Pius XII had tried to reopen a path of dialogue with Beijing after the communists came to power and expelled foreign missionaries.

He also pointed out that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI approved the draft accord when he was the pontiff, and it was this deal that the Vatican under Pope Francis eventually signed in 2018.

He added that the accord only covers the nomination of bishops and does not in any way touch on other aspects of the life of the church in China, much less political issues.

Parolin’s assertion that Benedict approved the draft is significant and was aimed at silencing some of Francis’ conservative critics. Many of his critics are nostalgic for Benedict’s conservative papacy and have used the China agreement to undermine Francis.

The new agreement is a “point of departure”, Parolin says. In his opinion it is worth extending the 2018 deal because two years was too short a period of time to evaluate its worth.

“There have been some results, but in order for the dialogue to have more consistent fruits, it’s necessary to continue,” he said.

“From the Holy See’s side, there is the will to prolong the accord on an experimental basis, as it has been done, in order to verify its use.”

Parolin was roundly criticised for the Vatican’s discussions with China last week

During a speech on religious liberty in Rome and in an essay he wrote before his arrival in Rome, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear U.S. objections to the accord.

He urged the Vatican to join the U.S. in denouncing China’s crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities, Catholics among them.


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