Rome/Beijing,Oct.22,2020 (dpa/Naija247news) The Vatican and China have agreed to extend their temporary deal on bishop appointments for two more years, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“The two sides will remain in close communication and consultation to continuously improve our relations,’’ spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
A two-year deal was struck in October 2018 that saw Pope Francis approve seven Chinese state appointed bishops, previously considered renegade clergy by traditional Catholics.
The deal also called for greater communication between the Vatican and Beijing over the appointment of future bishops, although it stopped short of renewed diplomatic relations.
Francis’ deputy, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, already told reporters on Wednesday that the agreement was going to be prolonged.
Catholics in China are split between the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and more or less underground bishops appointed by the pope who face harassment and persecution.
The China-Vatican accord aims at overcoming this division. Its signature was seen as a historic step, but critics see it as an objectionable example of appeasement of Chinese religious oppression.
U.S Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo suggested in September that the Vatican was going to endanger its moral authority by renewing the deal.
The blunt criticism overshadowed a visit Pompeo made to the Vatican earlier this month, during which Parolin said the Holy See preferred dialogue with China.
“We are for a policy of small steps,’’ he said