Vatican official says deal with China on appointment of bishops will be renewed

Philip Pullella, Reuters

Posted at Oct 21 2020 10:23 PM

Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience, at the Vatican, October 21, 2020. Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

ROME - Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Wednesday that a controversial deal with Beijing on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China would be renewed.

The deal, which was first signed two years ago and expires on Thursday, will be renewed for another two years, he said.

Asked by reporters on the sidelines of an event at a Rome university if it was a done deal, Parolin said: "Yes, I can anticipate to you that all will go well ... I'll leave you with a positive signal."

The accord with Beijing gives the pope final say over the appointment of Chinese bishops and the government allows all of them, including those hailing from a state-backed Church, to recognise the pope's authority.

The deal has been highly contested by the U.S. State Department and conservative Catholics, who say the Vatican has sold out to the communist government.

Parolin said the final decision to renew had been made "in the last few days" after final contacts with the Chinese side. The deal would be extended without any new signatures because it was still an provisional deal.

The official announcement is due on Thursday, he said.

Vatican officials say the agreement is not perfect but establishes a dialogue with Beijing after decades during which Chinese Catholics faithful to the pope were driven underground.

"We hope that the Church in China can rediscover, thanks to this accord, its unity and that through this unity it can become an instrument to spread the gospel in Chinese society and work to help see authentic development for all the country's people," Parolin said.

"As far as the accord is concerned, we are content. There are still many other problems but we never expected the accord to resolve all the problems," he said.

Many believe the accord will eventually lead to diplomatic relations with Beijing, meaning that the Vatican would have to sever ties with Taiwan. Parolin said talk of diplomatic relations was premature.

"For now we are not talking about diplomatic relations," Parolin said. "We are concentrated on the Church."

"We are taking one step at a time in the effort to normalise the life of the Church," he said.