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10/25/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – Under Pope Francis’ leadership, it is no secret that the Vatican has been warming up to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with the hope that the authoritarian regime would recognize the Pope’s Catholic authority and in turn improve its treatment of the Chinese Catholics.

In 2018, Beijing signed a provisional deal with the Vatican on the appointment of bishops. The agreement was never made public, but many see the move as the Holy See’s desire to improve the troubled relations it has had with China since 1958.

Since the agreement, however, the underground Catholics’ situation has not gotten better, if not worse. The Chinese government continues to crack down on churches that are not sanctioned by the state and arrest priests and nuns for refusing to cooperate with the state. Underground bishops loyal to the Vatican were forced to surrender their positions to state-approved clergy. Worse yet, the Sino-Vatican deal was again renewed last October.

Even then, Beijing still has not obtained what it has longed for from the Vatican – to sever ties with democratic Taiwan that the PRC sees as a breakaway province. The Vatican is the only diplomatic ally Taiwan has in Europe, due to the political pressure Beijing has placed on European countries.

According to the Italian paper Corriere della Sera, an unnamed Vatican official says that China would like the Vatican City to break off diplomatic ties with Taiwan in exchange for official ties with Beijing.

The Sunday report further states that the Vatican wants to set up an apostolic nunciature in Beijing, which is the equivalent of an embassy in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, before discussing its future relationship with Taiwan.

Based on an article from the Diplomat, analyst Gary Sands believes that if the Vatican fails to use the full extent of its powers to stop the growing persecution of those who practice religion in China, and fail to maintain its long-standing diplomatic recognition of Taiwan (where religious freedoms abound), the Catholic Church will lose even more moral authority and trust, both of which may prove difficult to recover.

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