03/15/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – A Chinese bishop from Hebei believes that the renewal of the Sino-Vatican deal is sending a positive signal toward the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See.
Bishop Fang Jianping, vice-president of the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), who is also a delegate to the 13th National People’s Congress, recently told Radio Television Hong Kong that while he does not know the timeline of establishing diplomatic ties between the two states, the renewal of the Sino-Vatican deal last October is a positive step toward that. He believes the deal can reduce the disagreement and controversy among churches.
He added that among the 97 dioceses in China, there are more than 40 that have not elected a bishop. The work is complex and difficult. He thinks that all these dioceses should seize the moment, utilizing Pope Francis’ trust and cultivate the bishops before electing them before the deal expires in two years.
Ying Fuk-tsang, a professor at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Chinese University of Hong Kong, has a different opinion. He thinks that the provisional deal only deals with the bishop appointment issue. Until now, there is no way for the public to know who the bishop candidates are as proposed by the Chinese government, and how many of those nominations were accepted by the Vatican. He believes that there is still a long way to go before the two states can establish diplomatic relations.
The core issue right now for both parties is how to deal with the status of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and how the underground community has suffered due to their loyalty to the Vatican in the past.
The provisional agreement between Beijing and the Vatican on bishop appointment was first reached in 2018, but it expired in 2020 before being officially renewed on October 22. Many, including then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and bishop emeritus of Hong Kong Joseph Zen, criticize the deal as a sellout to the Chinese Communist Party.
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