Speaking at a private event with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See in Rome, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said they expect to renew the provisional agreement made with China.
Signed back in 2018, it is set to expire in October. The deal recognizes the Pope’s authority to appoint new bishops in China, however, only candidates proposed by the government regime in Beijing can be chosen.
How effective is the “provisional agreement” in reality? Since it was signed, no new bishops have been named for the 52 dioceses in China with vacant sees. The South China Post reported:
“No new heads have been chosen for the 52 bishop-less dioceses in the two years since the agreement was signed, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, who declined to be named.”
Parolin said renewing the deal will help efforts to “normalize” Catholic life in China.
“With China, our current interest is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the Pope. Our perspective is on this ecclesiastical theme, against a backdrop of peaceful coexistence, the search for peace and overcoming tensions.”
He said the Vatican’s intention is “that the deal be prolonged, that we continue to adopt it ad experimentum.”
Parolin added that the first two years of the deal were “not particularly exciting,” but he “think[s] and hope[s] so” that “there is the same intention on their part too.”
Father Bernardo Cervellera, editor in chief of AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and head of the official news agency for the Vatican Agenzia Fides, says those hopes are slim however.
Cervellera believes conservative members of the Chinese Communist Party do not want to renew the agreement, fearing they will face pressure for more religious freedom following.
So far, China has only said their interim deal with the Vatican has been “implemented successfully,” and they have “accumulated more mutual trust and consensus through a series of positive interactions,” speaking on their mutual support during the coronavirus pandemic.