Last Thursday, the Holy See announced the renewal of their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops with China.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office said:
“Upon the expiration of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops, which was signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018 and took effect one month later, the two Parties have agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years.
The Holy See considers the initial application of the Agreement – which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value – to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the Parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”
According to Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, “the first two years led to new episcopal appointments with Rome’s agreement,” however only “some were officially recognized by the government in Beijing.”
“Even though contact was blocked in recent months due to the pandemic, the results have been positive, although limited, and suggest going forward with the application of the Agreement for another determined period of time.”
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. Bishop appointments were supposed to be the first obstacle to be resolved under the agreement, but while China and the Vatican have come closer, they are not interacting and conversing on the same bandwidth.”
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he was “happy” with the agreement, while also acknowledging ‘there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve.’
He added the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” – through this unity “it will become an instrument of evangelization.”
When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin said: “But, what persecutions. You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.”