(TibetanReview.net, Feb04, 2018) – China and the Vatican are said to be about to sign a historic accord whereby the former will acknowledge the Pope as the head of the country’s Catholic Church in return for the latter recognizing the bishops appointed by Beijing. Seven Beijing-appointed bishops are due to earn the recognition were a deal to be reached, reported the AFP Feb 3. Underlying it all, however, is China’s main aim of the Vatican switching its diplomatic recognition to it from Taiwan.
The Vatican is currently one of 20 states to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of China.
Beijing and the Vatican severed diplomatic relations in 1951. But ties have improved recently with the growth in China’s Catholic population. However, they have remained at odds over the question of appointing bishops in China, with the discussion having continued over the last three years.
“In a framework agreement, however still under negotiation with China, the Vatican accepts to legitimise seven Chinese Catholic bishops chosen directly by China,” the AFP quoted an unnamed source close to the matter as saying.
China’s roughly 12 million Catholics are divided between a government-run association, whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party, and an unofficial church which swears allegiance to the Vatican and worships in illegal, underground churches.
The Vatican has in the past officially excommunicated three of the seven bishops who are now set to be recognised by Pope Francis. However, it has also previously accepted several bishops appointed by Beijing. And just recently, two underground Chinese bishops, recognised by the pope, were asked by a top Vatican diplomat to resign in favour of state-sanctioned prelates, including one who was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011.
This means that the long-stalled negotiations finally seem to be close to solving the issue of who ordains the bishops, the report said.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican number two, was quoted as having noted Jan 31 in an interview with the Vatican Insider: “In China there are not two Churches, but two communities of faithful called to follow a gradual path of reconciliation towards unity.”