Since 1951, there have been no official relations between China and the Holy See. However, in September 2018, China and the Holy See signed an agreement allowing the Pope to appoint bishops approved by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and veto them. The agreement was then extended for a further two years in October 2020. [1] He reminded his audience that after decades of negotiations, the agreement is not just “a point of arrival”; it is above all “a starting point” for the Church in China and Sino-Vatican relations. The Beijing government has established two conditions for re-establishing relations: that the Holy See “does not interfere in religious affairs in China” and that it sever relations with the Taipei government after the expulsion of Bishop Riberi, in accordance with Beijing`s one-China policy. , it now stops only at the level of the chargé d`affaires. [6] The Holy See suggested that it would have no difficulties with the second condition, but that it required a discussion of the concrete meaning of the first. [7] The main point of contention concerns the appointment of Catholic bishops in mainland China, now appointed by the China Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), at times, in agreement with the Holy See, at other times in direct opposition to his declared vows. The government of the People`s Republic of China has the position that bishops should be appointed themselves; The Holy See is that bishops can only be appointed by the Pope,[8] while in some cases some form of consultation with civil authorities is in sight. [9] The Vatican has vehemently defended the agreement in recent weeks, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly criticized it and asked the Holy See not to renew it. After the announcement of the Sino-Vatican decision to extend the agreement, he wrote in the journal Mondo e Missions: “The recently renewed agreement between the Holy See and China is not [a peace agreement] between the two sides: it is not the end of the problems for Catholics in China, nor does it sanction religious freedom in China.

It is a compromise that many violently dispute and others celebrate with excessive enthusiasm. This is not a situation that is beneficial to everyone. I think the Vatican paid a higher price than Beijing. It is an agreement that the Holy See might not have been able to do without creating other difficulties for Catholics in China. After years of slow negotiations, the Vatican sealed a historic “temporary” agreement with Beijing on September 22, 2018. The agreement drew opposition from church conservatives, who say it sells those who have suffered for decades in China`s underground Catholic Church because the faithful refused to recognize bishops appointed by the communist government and not by Rome. The agreement, they argue, effectively tolerates religious freedom and human rights violations in China. 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. On 22 October, the Holy See and China announced that they had agreed to extend the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for a further two years.

At the end of this experimental agreement – the expression used by the Vatican – the agreement will be either final or another decision will have to be taken. But until then, the Vatican will want to see concrete results. In addition, the details of the agreement have been largely kept confidential, to the dismay of some critics of Pope Francis. “The document, if it were known to all — we can know that they went to Beijing,” Zen said.