Catholic China Agreement

He explained that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council “on the special role of the Pope in the Episcopal College and in the appointment of the bishops themselves had inspired the negotiations” and was “a point of reference in the drafting of the text of the Agreement.” Pope Francis, attached to the culture of dialogue and encounter and opposed to confrontation, gave the green light to the extension, despite the pressure of denouncing the agreement. External pressure was exerted by various political actors, including the United States, as expressed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while internal pressure was exerted by parts of the Church, including cardinals such as Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Gerhard Muller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy See and the Beijing government have jointly announced a two-year extension of the 2018 agreement, which expires on Thursday. The announcement extended a landmark agreement in 2018 by two years, ending decades of struggle for power over the right to appoint bishops in China, despite concerns about religious freedom and human rights in the country. There are many other unresolved issues on which the Vatican intends to reach an agreement with the Chinese authorities in due course. Among them, it will want Beijing to eliminate or, at the very least, suspend the practice of summoning clergy for political indoctrination and make them “disappear” indefinitely for this purpose. The agreement, which has never been published, provides for a process of dialogue in the selection of bishops, although Pope Francis has said he has the final say. The Vatican signed it in 2018 in the hope that it would help unify Chinese Catholics, divided for seven decades between those of an official state-sanctioned church and a Roman underground church. The text of the agreement, signed in September 2018 and renewed in October, remains secret by mutual agreement, but, as Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, has noted, much of its contents are known. Moreover, he added, Benedict XVI approved a draft agreement when he was pope. After years of slow negotiations, the Vatican sealed a historic “temporary” agreement with Beijing on September 22, 2018.