Vatican Renews Bishop Appointment Deal with Beijing

Provisional Deal Renewed Despite International Criticism

10/22/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the controversial two-year deal between the Vatican and China on bishop appointment has been renewed and signed today.

The provisional agreement signed between the two parties on September 22, 2018, which came into force a month later and has never been made public, is due for renewal on October 22, 2020.

While it addresses the issue of bishop appointment, where the Chinese government has the authority to propose names for new bishops to the Vatican through its state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), with the pope having veto power on the decision, the reality is that China has not put forward any names in the past two years.

Instead, the government largely focused its efforts on coercing the underground clergy to join the CPCA or forcing them to give up their positions, as was the case for Bishop Guo Xijin in Mindong Diocese and Bishop Zhuang Jianjian in Shantou Diocese.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, told Voice of America on October 21, “Why is the Vatican so nervous and wants to extend [the deal]? It also said that everything has been going well in the past two years, which is really ostentation [lie]. What is going smoothly? How can you say it is going smoothly when you have not even appointed one single bishop?”

“There must be a political motive behind this. [The Vatican] really thinks that one day it can build diplomatic relations with China. When there is a negotiation, it means there is a hope for the establishment of formal relations,” he added.

Cardinal Zen is not the only one who has criticized the deal. In September, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published an opinion piece with regards to the same agreement.  In the op-ed, Pompeo was highly critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its record of human rights abuses against religious minorities and urged the Vatican to serve as a “moral witness” by being wary of the deal.

However, Pompeo’s hard stance might have contributed to the renewal. According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, one of the Vatican negotiators with China told the paper, “Pompeo has done us a favor. It has shown that our line is not conditioned by anyone. Paradoxically, he strengthened us in the negotiations with Beijing.”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The renewal of such an agreement between the Holy See and China is like another slap in the face for underground Catholics. In the past two years, even with this deal, the underground Catholics continued to face harassment and oppression – monasteries demolished, crosses removed, priests and nuns threatened or taken away. The improvement of treatment for the faithful claimed by the Vatican never came true and instead turned out to be worse. It is very unfortunate that the Holy See decided to dance with the wolf and sacrifice China’s underground Catholics for its own motives.”

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