Pope hopes China deal on bishops will be renewed soon

Pope China bishops deal

Pope Francis said he hopes the Vatican’s agreement with China on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops would be renewed in October.

In an interview with Reuters, Francis discussed the China deal first struck in 2018 and to be renewed every two years.

The agreement was put in place to ease a longstanding divide across mainland China between an underground flock loyal to the pope and a state-backed official church.

Both sides now recognise the pope as the supreme leader of the Catholic Church.

The accord, which is still provisional, centres on cooperation over the appointment of bishops. It gives the pope the final say.

“The agreement is moving well and I hope that in October it can be renewed,” Francis said.

There has been some criticism of the accord and not just because the details have been kept private.

One of the deal’s most vocal opponents is Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, the former archbishop of Hong Kong.

“The Vatican may have acted out of good faith but they have made an unwise decision,” Zen told a gathering on Hong Kong island last month.

Archbishop Zen prayed for “brothers and sisters who cannot attend the Mass in any form tonight – for they have no freedom now”.

Zen and others have accused the Vatican of turning a blind eye to human rights violations in China.

However, Francis defended the agreement as being the statecraft of working with the little available and trying to improve it.

“Diplomacy is like that. When you face a blocked situation, you have to find the possible way, not the ideal way out of it,” Francis said.

“Diplomacy is the art of the possible and of doing things to make the possible become a reality,” he said.

Only six new bishops have been appointed since the deal, which its opponents say proves it is not producing the desired effects.

The pope called the slow process “‘the Chinese way,’ because the Chinese have that sense of time that nobody can rush them”.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has urged the Catholic institution to defend religious freedom in Hong Kong, as some Catholics and other religious minorities face growing persecution in the country.

The European Parliament called on the Holy See to “strengthen its diplomatic efforts and its leverage on the Chinese authorities” in a resolution made on July 7.

The EU resolution encouraged the Vatican “to give full support to Cardinal Zen and other religious leaders who face persecution or the risk of detention under the national security regime in Hong Kong”.

Cardinal Zen was arrested by Chinese authorities on May 11 alongside four other pro-democracy activists.

The cardinal was released a day later and his trial is expected to take place on September 19. Zen has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The European Parliament called on the Vatican “to demand that all charges against Cardinal Zen be dropped and (for) an end to persecution and human rights violations.”



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