Catholic World News

Vatican, China working toward accord?

July 15, 2016

The Vatican is pushing for an agreement with Beijing over the appointment of Catholic bishops in China, according to a special report from the Reuters news agency.

Citing confidential interviews with “two dozen Catholic officials and clergy in Hong Kong, Italy and mainland China,” Reuters reports that Pope Francis may soon lift the excommunications of eight bishops who were ordained without Vatican approval.

Reuters reports that a joint working group has been working quietly since April to resolve disputes over the appointment of bishops. That issue is complicated by the status of the bishops who have already been appointed by the government-backed Patriotic Association without a mandate from the Holy See. The Vatican is not prepared to recognize them as diocesan leaders, Reuters said—in part because at least two of them reportedly have mistresses and/or children. But they might be accorded some official title. In return, the Vatican would ask for Beijing’s recognition of the “underground” bishops who have never obtained official government approval, and an end to government harassment of “underground” priests.

Questions have also arisen about Shanghai’s Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who recently issued a statement expressing regret over his past opposition to the Patriotic Association. Because Bishop Ma has been living under house arrest since his public repudiation of the government-controlled group, many Catholics suspect that he made his latest statement under pressure.

There is considerable opposition to a Vatican-Beijing accord, Reuters acknowledges. Many Chinese Catholics fear that the Holy See would cede too much control to the Chinese government, and point to Beijing’s repeated violations of religious freedom. At the same time, Communist ideologues insist that no religious group in China can answer to a foreign authority.

However, Pope Francis has shown a “deep desire for rapprochement with China,” Reuters notes. The Pope has sent several friendly messages to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and last year Vatican officials made a concerted effort—which ultimately proved unsuccessful—to arrange a meeting between the Pontiff and the Chinese leader while both were in New York in September to address the United Nations.

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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jul. 15, 2016 1:41 PM ET USA

    If this happens it will be a betrayal of Cardinal Zen and the underground Church loyal to the Holy See who are not puppets of the regime. This is a repeat of Ostpolitik and the betrayal of Cardinal Mindszenty and persecuted Catholics under communism by Paul VI a low-point in his papacy. It seems like the Holy See has forgotten about communism since the reign of Ven Pius XII. There is an old saying still true: You can trust communists to be communist. Francis seems to want to repeat the same. Sad