Vatican and China Bishops

Paul Arps is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Asian country remains the last spiritual challenge for the Vatican

The Vatican and the People's Republic of China have reached an agreement to solve a dispute over which entity has the authority to appoint bishops. As per informed sources, the deal could be signed by this May. If this happens, diplomatic relations could be restored after a gap of almost 70 years. Contact was severed after a communist rule was entrenched in China. A partial resolution will open-up the relations between the Holy See and Beijing.

A complete breakthrough will enable the Vatican controlled churches to care for about 12 million Chinese Catholics living in China. The Vatican knows it is imperative to move fast as Protestant churches are growing rapidly across the country.

Whatever happens, it is clear the Vatican has succumbed to the pressures of the Chinese Communist Party. This is not good news to Taiwan. The reason is that if such a deal goes through, then the Vatican will be compelled to cut off diplomatic relations with the small island country. Communist China will then be the priority.

Chinese Catholics are fractured between those who are members of “underground” communities following the pope and those who are part of the Catholic Patriotic Association. The latter is a state-controlled entity where all bishops get appointed by Beijing. These are made possible by a close link between the government and local church communities.

For the Vatican, China, by and large, remains a fruit that must be ripe for the plucking. The Holy See knows that the People's Republic is the last country to be conquered. It has superb missionary potential. It also helped that many people in the Vatican harbor a deep romance when it comes to this Asian nation. China is linked with many legendary figures like St. Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. A continued historical sense remains that the Holy See did a hara-kiri with the notorious Chinese Rites controversy during 17th to 18th centuries.

If the deal materializes, the Vatican can make decisions when it comes to appointing CPA bishops in the future. The Holy See has vehemently denied that Pope Francis was not present during the China negotiations. It is heard that the pontiff has given his backing to an offer to bishops who are known to be loyal to the Holy See. They are expected to work to meet Vatican interests so that an accord can be reached with the government-backed bishops.

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