ROME ( Associated Press) – The Vatican and China extended their often-criticised agreement on the appointment of bishops on Saturday in the Asian country, where the government has cracked down on believers for years.
The Holy See in a brief statement announced the new renewal of the 2018 agreement for two years.
He assured that the Vatican was committed to “constructive dialogue” with China for the implementation of the agreement and improving bilateral relations “to promote the mission of the Catholic Church and the well-being of the Chinese people”.
The two sides have not had diplomatic relations since 1951 after the Chinese Communists came to power.
Conservative Catholics have criticized the deal in light of China’s persecution of people who follow its different religions. The Vatican insists that better relations allow discussion of any human rights abuses.
Full details of the deal, which essentially allows Pope Francis to finalize the selection of a bishop for China, while allowing Chinese officials to intervene earlier in the process, have never been made public.
Catholics in China have for decades been divided between those who belong to an official state-backed church and an underground church loyal to the Pontiff in Rome.
The Holy See emphasizes the pope’s right to choose bishops, while Beijing sees such appointments as a violation of its national sovereignty.
In comments to Vatican media about the extension of the deal, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who serves as secretary of state, said the deal reflects the pope’s “determination and patient foresight”.
Last month in Hong Kong, a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal and five others were sued for allegedly failing to register a now-defunct fund set up to help those arrested in massive anti-government protests three years ago was run.