Vatican and China seek improved relations

Vatican and China

The Vatican and China are signalling a potential thaw in their historically strained relationship, with both sides expressing a willingness to work together.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has proposed the establishment of a permanent Vatican office in Beijing.

This is a significant gesture towards deeper diplomatic ties.

Parolin reaffirmed that the Church does not threaten China’s sovereignty.

While stressing the importance of unity with Rome, he acknowledged that foreign missionaries made past “errors” in evangelisation.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, responded positively to Parolin’s call.

He desired “continuous improvement” in relations with the Vatican.

Amid these diplomatic overtures, the Vatican is also focused on renewing its controversial agreement with China regarding episcopal appointments.

Cardinal Parolin, speaking at a conference on Vatican-China relations, expressed optimism about the renewal and development of this deal, struck in 2018.

For decades, the Church in China has been divided into an “official” Church run by the government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), and a so-called “underground” Church in union with Rome.

The 2018 Vatican and China deal allows the Pope to select bishops from candidates proposed by Chinese authorities.

This significant concession aims to unify the CPCA and the underground Church.

Taiwan monitoring developments

Taiwan, which maintains formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican, is closely monitoring these developments.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its ongoing cooperation with the Vatican on humanitarian issues and religious freedom. The country expressed concerns over China’s alleged violations of religious freedom.

Taiwan also highlighted recent interactions with the Vatican. This included a delegation’s visit on climate change and the Vatican’s presence at Taiwan’s presidential inauguration.

Two priests missing in China

Despite the positive signals indicated by Cardinal Parolin and Chinese officials, two Catholic priests from the underground Baoding diocese in Hebei Province have been reported missing.

Fathers Chen Hekun and Chi Huitian are believed to be victims of forced disappearances, according to a report by China Aid on 22 May.

Baoding diocese, one of China’s largest underground Catholic jurisdictions, is not recognised by the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).

Incidents of forced disappearances targeting priests resisting the state-sanctioned church have been reported before. Detainees are often subjected to political “re-education” by the Chinese Communist Party, extending their detention until they comply.


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