By Tracy Cabrera
File photo shows Catholic faithful in China reading from the Bible as they celebrate the Feast of the Ascension at the ‘underground’ Zhongxin Bridge Catholic Church in Tianjin, northeastern China. (AFP)
THE Catholic Church has renewed its secret deal with Beijing on bishops’ appointments for another two years with the aim of unifying divisions of the Church in mainland China.
Both parties have reportedly “agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years,” according to an official communiqué from the Vatican dated October 22 the current year.
The agreement primarily aims to end China’s communist government directly appointing Catholic bishops without papal recognition.
Vatican secretary-of-state Cardinal Pietro Parolin disclosed that the pact would become live without any new signatures because it was a provisional deal.
The details of the pact continue to remain secret, but the Vatican said the agreement wants to empower the pope to have the final say over Chinese bishops’ appointment in China.
The Vatican has been criticized for renewing the highly secretive deal by conservative Catholics in the mainland, who alleged that the Vatican has sold out to the communist government. They lamented that the secret deal would only help the Chinese government to further oppress the underground church.
However, Cardinal Parolin, who had been pushing the agreement, denied such allegations while speaking at the function at Pontifical Antonianum University.
“We hope that the Church in China can rediscover, thanks to this accord, its unity and that through this unity it can become an instrument to spread the gospel in Chinese society and work to help see authentic development for all the country’s people,” the cardinal said.
“As far as the accord is concerned, we are content. There are still many other problems, but we never expected the accord to resolve all the problems,” he added.
China’s Catholic community remains split into two groups—the open Church managed by the state and the underground church that refuses to accept Beijing’s alleged oppressive control.
In view of the new development, many believe the agreement could lead the Vatican to start diplomatic ties with Beijing, severed seven decades ago.
But Cardinal Parolin brushed aside such speculations, saying “for now, we are not talking about diplomatic relations.”
He said the Vatican is not meant to address political issues but Chinese Catholics’ pastoral needs are the agreement’s prime concern.
“We are concentrated on the Church,” he said in conclusion.