China and the Vatican have renewed a deal to give both a say in the appointment of bishops on the mainland, Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs said Thursday.
The initial agreement was signed in 2018 allowing the pope as well as the Communist Party a say in appointing Chinese bishops.
Announced after years of talks, it was a step towards reconciling the two sides after the People’s Republic of China cut off diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1951.
That had split China’s roughly 12 million Catholics between a state-run organization that did not recognize the pope’s authority and illegal “underground” churches loyal to the pontiff.
“After friendly consultations,” both sides agreed to the extension of the deal “for two years,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Thursday.
“The two sides will maintain close communication and consultation, and continue to push forward the process of improving relations.”
There are sticking points ahead.
The Vatican remains the sole European ally to officially recognize self-ruled Taiwan, an incendiary issue to China which sees the island as indivisible part of its territory which it has vowed to reclaim.
But recent years have seen warming relations between Beijing and the Vatican, with top envoys from the two governments meeting publicly for the first time in Munich this February.