China-Vatican deal in ‘final stages’: Chinese bishop

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/28 21:44:53

A deal between China and the Vatican could be signed as early as the end of this month, a Chinese bishop said Wednesday.

Negotiations have reached "the final stages," said Bishop Guo Jincai, secretary-general of the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China. The deal was expected to address the thorny issue of appointment of bishops "as well as issues of shared concern for Beijing and the Holy See such as promoting world peace," he said. 

Misunderstandings that arose from media speculation and lack of communication between the two sides were being solved in ongoing talks, Guo said.

"If everything goes right, the deal could be signed as early as the end of this month," he said. "The timing depends on details of the deal or technical issues."

Both sides are making positive efforts to promote the deal and it is essential that both share a consensus to improve relations and promote the Catholic Church's global influence, the bishop noted.

China and the Vatican have no diplomatic relations.

The negotiations remain on a religious, not diplomatic level, Chinese experts stressed. 

Guo's optimism was not shared by Wang Meixiu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

There were still uncertainties to be addressed, Wang noted.

"A deal on the general principles of bishop appointment will not come unless the two sides release a written document, or a separate deal about the Vatican's acknowledgement of seven bishops backed by the Chinese government," Wang said.

The seven bishops include some who were "excommunicated" by the Holy See. 

Whether or not the Holy See simply acknowledges the bishops by title or empowers them in their diocese "mattered a lot," Wang told the Global Times.

"Legal and political changes in China also need to be taken into consideration," she said.

In February, China enacted newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, which stressed the country should "proactively lead religion to adapt to socialist society."

In an institutional reform plan released on March 21, China's religious bureau was dissolved and the duties handed to the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China.

On Wednesday, China reaffirmed its sincerity to improve Sino-Vatican relations.

China was making continued efforts and was willing to meet the Vatican halfway to promote constructive bilateral dialogue and progress, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily briefing.

Posted in: SOCIETY

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