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Vatican close to accord with China, recognizing government-appointed bishops?

February 02, 2018

The Vatican will soon sign a landmark accord with China, and agree to recognize bishops who were installed without papal approval, the Reuters news service reports.

The Reuters story confirms earlier reports that Vatican negotiators have moved to remove two “underground” bishops loyal to the Holy See, and replace them with prelates who were illicitly appointed. The AsiaNews service had revealed that the two Chinese bishops had been asked to retire, clearing the way for their replacement.

The Vatican has not offered any official comment on the Reuters story.

Reuters said that the agreement between the Vatican and Beijing, which would pave the way for diplomatic relations, would be announced within “a few months.” Under the terms of the agreement, the Vatican would reportedly have some control over the appointment of new bishops, but the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association would also play a major role; the details of the appointment process were not disclosed.

A Wall Street Journal report essentially confirmed the report of a Vatican-Beijing accord, adding that the Holy See would offer recognition to seven bishops who have been installed by the government. The Code of Canon Law stipulates that a cleric who is ordained as a bishop without the approval of the Holy See incurs the penalty of excommunication. Pope Francis would lift those penalties, the Wall Street Journal says.

Earlier this week Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong, made an impassioned plea to Pope Francis to reconsider the reported agreement. Speaking on behalf of loyal Catholics in China, the cardinal said that the accord would give the Beijing regime control over the Church; he stressed that the Chinese government has shown no respect for religious freedom.


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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Feb. 06, 2018 12:46 AM ET USA

    Well, yes, the Church has been fighting off attempts by princes and goverments to control the selection of bishops for at least a thousand years. But the operative word there is “fighting.” This looks like capitulation.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Feb. 05, 2018 10:04 AM ET USA

    Is it really such a big deal? In the past, didn't various European rulers, such as the king of France and the emperor of Austria-Hungary, have to approve the appointment of bishops? Even today, the Church in Germany gets a bunch of money from the state. It's probably not ideal, but it's not like it hasn't been done before.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 04, 2018 6:09 AM ET USA

    There is a painful remedy, but it would only make real what is de facto practice in orthodox Catholic parishes. Parishes can continue to practice the Catholic faith. Only they would have to go deeper underground, so deep that even the Vatican would not know they still exist. The Chinese have done it before. A Catholic's ultimate loyalty is to Christ, not to any holder of this or that public or religious office. It's over when the State dictates religious belief. Remember H. Clinton's statement.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Feb. 04, 2018 3:28 AM ET USA

    Guess Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre should have founded the SSPX in China.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Feb. 03, 2018 2:08 PM ET USA

    If these fears about the selling of the underground Church are true, it would give more credence to the belief that no good deed goes unpunished by the current papacy. Let's hope and pray that the sell-out does not take place.

  • Posted by: space15796 - Feb. 03, 2018 12:29 PM ET USA

    I hope these reports are inaccurate. This would be disastrous for millions upon millions of people. It would invalidate this pope's authority in the eyes of so many. Why capitulate to evil? And how could the faithful be told to stand firm in the face of evil when when leadership in the church won't?

  • Posted by: stpetric - Feb. 02, 2018 10:25 PM ET USA

    There may be more going on here that we don't know about. But it appears from what has been reported that the pope is about to make an extremely discouraging decision. Coming so soon after awarding papal honors to the pro-abortion Dutch politician leaves me wondering what the pope is thinking.