Vatican calls on China to extend deal on appointment of Catholic bishops

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A top Vatican official said Monday he hoped a landmark deal signed two years ago with China on the appointment of bishops would be extended.

Under the terms of the provisional agreement, which China and the Vatican signed in 2018, both Beijing and the pope have a say in appointing Catholic bishops.

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The current accord expires in October, but Vatican number two Pietro Parolin told Italian media: “Our intention is that it should be extended.

“Is there the same intention on the part of the Chinese? I think and I hope so,” Parolin told the Ansa news agency.

The People’s Republic of China broke off relations with the Vatican in 1951 and the atmosphere between the two states remains strained.

The Vatican is the only European diplomatic ally of self-ruled Taiwan, which is viewed by China as a breakaway province awaiting reunification.

China’s roughly 12 million Catholics have for decades been split between a government-run association, whose clergy are chosen by the atheist Communist Party, and an unofficial underground church loyal to the Vatican.

Under the 2018 deal, both Beijing and the Vatican participate in the appointment of bishops -- the first of whom was Yao Shun of the diocese of Ulanqab in the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in August last year.

The law in China requires priests and bishops to register and align with the country’s official church.

But the Vatican said at the time that the bishop, who it named as Antonio Yao Shun, had “received the papal mandate” at the ordination.

Pope Francis recognized seven clergy appointed by China as part of the deal two years ago, despite fears Beijing would use the accord to further crack down on worshippers outside the official church.

Improving relations with Beijing was worth pursuing, said Parolin.

“Our current interest in China is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible,” he said.

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