Vatican signs provisional agreement with Beijing over Bishops

World Today

A historic “provisional agreement” has been reached between the Vatican and Beijing over the appointment of Bishops in China. Pope Francis will now recognize seven China-appointed bishops, who did not previously have the Pope’s consent. The move has caused a split among Chinese Catholics.

CGTN’s John Terrett reports.

China has an estimated 12 million Catholics through the state-supervised Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, but the faithful in China are split between those who worship at government-backed churches and those who attend a more underground movement with allegiance to Rome.

“This is a great moment Chinese Catholics have been long expecting,” said Zhang Shoumian, a Chinese Catholic. “It means the Chinese Catholic church is in consensus with the Pope and I think as the head of the Vatican, the Pope will definitely come to visit China some time.”

China and the Vatican have been at odds over the appointment of bishops in China for over seventy years, but the provisional agreement signed by Beijing will now give the Holy See a role in future appointments of all Chinese Catholic Bishops.

The Vatican said the deal is “not political but pastoral.”

“Concerning the appointment of Bishops is of great importance,” said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. “Especially for the life of the Church in China, for the dialogue between the Holy See and the authorities of that country and also for the promotion of a horizon of peace.”

As part of the deal, Pope Francis has recognized the legitimacy of seven state- appointed Chinese bishops who have been named without papal approval.

Critics, including the former Archbishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen who led opposition to the deal, argue the provisional agreement is a betrayal but other Catholics said after seven decades it’s a long overdue rapprochement that goes someway to heading off any potential schism within the church in China.