China vows more ‘friendly consensus’ amid Vatican complaints

China Vatican friendly consensus

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the country is willing to expand the “friendly consensus” achieved with the Vatican over bishops’ nominations.

Zhao Lijian (pictured) was responding to complaints from the Vatican that Beijing was violating a 2018 interim accord over bishop appointments.

The Vatican issued an unusually harsh statement on Saturday complaining that Beijing on 24 November had installed Bishop John Peng Weizhao as an auxiliary bishop in the province of Jiangxi, which the Vatican doesn’t recognise as a diocese.

“The Holy See noted with surprise and regret the news of the ‘installation ceremony’” of Bishop John Peng Weizhao of Yujiang as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi, “a diocese not recognised by the Holy See,” said the note released by the Vatican on 26 November, two days after the installation of the bishop.

At a briefing on Monday, Zhao said he was unaware of the specific situation involving Peng.

However, he said that relations between China and the Vatican had improved over recent years for the benefit and “harmonious development” of Chinese Catholicism.

“China is willing to continuously expand the friendly consensus with the Vatican side and jointly maintain the spirit of our interim agreement,” he told reporters.

In its statement, the Vatican said Peng’s installation ceremony took place after “long and heavy pressure from the local authorities.

“In fact, this event did not take place in accordance with the spirit of dialogue,” or what is called for by the 2018 accord, the Vatican statement said.

In the past four years, only six bishops have been named and installed under the terms of the agreement.

China and the Vatican haven’t had diplomatic relations since 1951, following the Communists’ rise to power and the expulsion of foreign priests.

The Vatican has sought in recent years to open contacts and reduce frictions, particularly over the appointment of bishops.

Since the break in ties, Catholics in China have since been divided between those who belong to an official, state-sanctioned church and an underground church loyal to the pontiff.

Estimates of the total number of Chinese Catholics run between 6 million and 12 million worshipping in both the recognised Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground church.

The Vatican’s efforts toward reconciliation led to its willingness to sign what it admits is a far-from-ideal accord in 2018, which regularised the status of several bishops and paved the way for future nominations.

Full details of the agreement have never been made public, but Pope Francis has claimed he has the final say in the process.

Under nationalist leader Xi Jinping, the officially atheist Communist Party has pressured all religions to “sinosize,” meaning they must closely adhere to its rulings on all matters and reject foreign involvement.

Asia News, a Rome-based missionary news agency, reported that Bishop Peng was secretly ordained bishop of Yujiang with a papal mandate in 2014, which led to his arrest by the country’s communist authorities.

He was held in jail for six months and, after his release, was subjected to restrictions on his ministry.

In late September, according to Asia News, Bishop Peng told the priests of the diocese that he had resigned as bishop of Yujiang and accepted the government’s plan to integrate five dioceses, including Yujiang, into one, the new Diocese of Jiangxi.


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