China and Vatican have extended their agreement on appointing bishops
China and the Vatican announced almost simultaneously that they will extend the “experimental implementation phase” of their agreement regarding the appointment of bishops.
In a press release, the Holy See praises the two parties' “good communication and cooperation” and expresses its intention to “pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”
The United States government had pressured the Vatican not to renew the agreement, to which the Holy See responded that it wasn't a political agreement, but one of “ecclesiastical and pastoral value.”
The Vatican acknowledges that the agreement does not address other important matters, but focuses only on the appointment of new bishops. It's part of the politics of small steps that Card. Pietro Parolin described.
CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN
Secretary of State, Vatican
September 30, 2020
“Our way of doing politics is about taking small steps. We believe that every result—even if it isn't striking, even if it isn't eye-catching, even if, at first, perhaps it seems to not yield big results—is however, a step forward, toward the affirmation also of greater religious freedom.”
China's People's University
“It's not a diplomatic agreement because the Vatican hasn't recognized Beijing, and neither does Beijing seem to want that. It knows that a diplomatic agreement would further isolate Taiwan, and that Taiwan could then become nervous and react dangerously. I think the Holy See's strategy is very wise and prudent. It doesn't yield, and at the same time, it seeks to maintain the ties that sustain this complicated relationship.”
The content of the agreement is not public. In two years, it has allowed for the appointment of only two new Chinese bishops in communion with the pope, despite the fact that there are about 50 vacant dioceses.
That's why instead of renewing or solidifying the agreement, the Vatican has decided to extend only the experimental phase.
The next two years will help determine whether or not this agreement allows Chinese Catholics to have bishops in communion with the pope. The Vatican and China's diplomatic ties had been non-existent since Mao rose to power in 1950 and began repressing all religions.