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ICC Note: Amidst a Chinese Communist regime afflicting religious minorities with hostilities perhaps unprecedented since the early 2000’s, it may seem hopeful that the CCP would even be willing to consider establishing an informal relationship with a religious body as monumental as the Catholic church. But skepticism of China’s intentions in this dialogue is well-founded; the churches that China approves or even touts on the surface are much more restricted than those which thrive underground by their own mission statement and doctrinal foundation. There is far too much mistrust between the CCP and any group with as much “Western influence” as the Catholic Church for there to be assurance that this new agreement would reduce persecution of Catholics and liberalize their freedom of worship in China. But the CCP also cannot maintain a choke-hold forever on tens of millions of people who have turned to Christianity or some other faith over the past few decades – perhaps the vast influence of the Holy See might actually compel the CCP to grant more of the religious liberties that the Chinese people rightfully demand.

7/19/2016 Beijing (IndianExpress) – Pope Francis is leading a determined push to fundamentally alter the relationship between the Vatican and China, which for decades has been infused with mutual suspicion and acrimony.

Interviews with some two dozen Catholic officials and clergy in Hong Kong, Italy and mainland China, as well as sources with ties to the leadership in Beijing, reveal details of an agreement that would fall short of full diplomatic ties but would address key issues at the heart of the bitter divide between the Vatican and Beijing.

A working group with members from both sides was set up in April and is discussing how to resolve a core disagreement over who has the authority to select and ordain bishops in China, several of the sources told Reuters. The group is also trying to settle a dispute over eight bishops who were appointed by Beijing but did not get papal approval – an act of defiance in the eyes of the Vatican.

In what would be a dramatic breakthrough, the pope is preparing to pardon the eight, possibly as early as this summer, paving the way to further detente, say Catholic sources with knowledge of the deliberations.

A signal of Francis’ deep desire for rapprochement with China came last year in the form of a behind-the-scenes effort by the Vatican to engineer the first-ever meeting between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Aides to the pope tried to arrange a meeting when both Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping were in New York in late September to address the United Nations General Assembly.

The meeting didn’t happen. But the overture didn’t go unnoticed in Beijing.

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