Vatican City, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- The Vatican and China announced Thursday the two-year renewal of their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in the country, which they branded as “positive,” although it said “many situations of great suffering remain.”
On the day it expired, both states renewed the agreement which in 2018 was considered a step forward in establishing relations between the countries, which were interrupted in 1951.
The agreement had provoked harsh criticism from the United States administration with an article and several statements by State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who told the Vatican it would lose moral credibility with this pact.
“The Holy See (…) thanks to the good communication and collaboration between parties, intends to continue the open and constructive dialogue to encourage the life of the Catholic Church and the good of the Chinese people,” the Vatican said in a note.
The interim agreement, like two years ago, is still being kept secret “by consensus” given its experimental nature, the statement read.
The Vatican said in an article in its official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that “the renewal of the provisional agreement seems to be a favorable opportunity to deepen its purpose and reasons.”
Despite the renewal provoking criticism from the US administration, the Vatican said the main purpose of the agreement is related to the appointment of bishops in China and tries to “support and promote the proclamation of the Gospel, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church.”
The agreement remains unchanged and allows the pope to become involved in the appointment and authorization of bishops, which was not allowed until two years ago.
In these two years, two bishops – Antonio Yao Shun, of Jining, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Stefano Xu Hongwei, in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province – have been appointed under this framework.
“Other processes for new episcopal appointments are underway, some in the initial phase, others in an advanced stage,” the Vatican said. “For the first time in many decades, all the bishops of China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome and, thanks to the implementation of the Agreement, there will be no more illegitimate orders.”
It is also clarified that the agreement “refers exclusively to the appointment of bishops” and has no political references.
“Furthermore, there is full awareness that the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China favors a more fruitful search for the common good for the benefit of the entire international community,” it said.
Diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican are officially non-existent since 1951 when Pius XII excommunicated two bishops appointed by Beijing, to which the Chinese authorities responded with the expulsion of the apostolic appointee, who moved to Taiwan.
For this reason, China created its own Patriotic Catholic Church since 1949, when Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and the Roman Catholics went “underground,” something this agreement eliminated, though many problems remain.
State Secretary Cardinal Pietro Parolin has already said “there is awareness of the existence of various problems regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China, but also about the impossibility of facing them all together.”
It is revealed that with these intentions, the Secretary of Relations with the United States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, met with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi, on Feb. 14, in Munich, on the sidelines of the 56th edition of the Security Conference.
“On that occasion, then, the will to continue bilateral dialogue to promote the life of the Catholic Church and the good of the Chinese people was renewed. In addition, greater international cooperation was expected to promote civil coexistence and peace in the world and considerations on intercultural dialogue and human rights were exchanged,” it said.
“It must be recognized that there are many situations of great suffering,” the Vatican said. “The Holy See is well aware of this and continues to attract the attention of the Chinese Government or to promote a more fruitful exercise of religious freedom. The road is still long and it is not without difficulties.” EFE-EPA