China And The Catholic Church: Was The Signed Agreement A ‘Sell out’?

The agreement focused on putting an end to a division among the 12 million Catholics in China, divided between the so-called underground church faithful to the Roman Catholic church and those in the state-supported churches.

China And The Catholic Church
Pope Francis, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right. Flickr Images

China and the Catholic Church signed an agreement about ordaining bishops in 2018  but it is about to expire at the end of this month. Although Pope Francis wishes to amend the treaty, it leaves China to disclose its own plans and what it has to gain in signing another treaty.

The agreement focused on putting an end to a division among the 12 million Catholics in China, divided between the so-called underground church faithful to the Roman Catholic church and those in the state-supported churches.

Pope Francis claimed that, despite facing allegations that he has deceived those loyal to Rome, the historic deal for 2018 on Bishops’ selection persists.

 In 1951, China ruptured diplomatic relations with the Vatican; missionaries were expelled, churches demolished, and they jailed representatives who were already seeking Rome for guidance. Beijing later founded its church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which argued that it had the power to ordain bishops without the Pope’s consent. Seven bishops were expelled for their ordination without the Vatican’s permission were pardoned shortly before the deal was sealed, as a token of unification.

Inside China and the Catholic Church Agreement

Under the groundbreaking deal, whose precise contents remain a secret, China recognized the Pope as head of the Catholic Church for the first time. They also gave the pontiff the final say in selecting bishops from a pool of candidates nominated by the Chinese government and state-sanctioned church.

The deal represented a milestone as the first indication that the communist government is willing to assert any jurisdiction with the Pope over Chinese Catholics. After decades of lengthy talks between the Vatican and Beijing in September 2018, the two-year tentative agreement was concluded.

Pope Francis himself decided by demanding two of the bishops who had been confirmed by the Vatican to give way before they had signed the deal to two recently exiled church bishops from the state-supported church.

China And The Catholic Church
Pope Francis with Chinese Catholic. Twitter Images.

Why Is The Deal Controversial?

Several bishops and cardinals have publicly criticized Rome for betraying the underground church’s interests by compromising essential principles. They have attacked the deal for betraying those who remained loyal to the Vatican. Several church members served prison sentences for being obedient to the Vatican, and opponents like Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong have blamed the Pope for “selling them out.”

More differences between the two parties have no significant changes since they struck the deal. Still, the Holy See has defended its policies saying they are necessary steps to improve religious freedoms.

How is the US Involved?

Washington was one of the most aggressive critics of renewing the deal, highlighting China’s weak record for civil rights and religious freedom. Last month, Pope Francis canceled a meeting with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who visited Rome after calling on the Vatican to take a tougher stance on China.


Will China and the Catholic Church Bond Together?

In July, a Vatican official said that the church had left 52 dioceses waiting for a bishop to be appointed. Meanwhile, Rome is waiting for 23 bishops chosen by the Vatican to be recognized by Beijing under a process that requires the former members of the underground clergy to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and make a pledge of loyalty party leadership.

The Holy See hopes they will extend the agreement to allow the dialogue between the two sides to continue, but has been frustrated by a lack of progress and reciprocal measures from Beijing. 

Meanwhile, the faithful church is still subject to arrest and persecution. Augustine Cui Tai, the underground bishop of Xuanhua in Hebei province, was detained last month, and his current whereabouts are unknown. In contrast, Shanghai bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is being held under partial house arrest in the city’s Sheshan Seminary. Other underground clerics have been missing for far longer, and their fates remain unknown, including the bishop of Baoding, James Su Zhimin, who was last seen almost 20 years ago.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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