Vatican to send delegation to China before possible bishops deal: sources

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/18 16:48:39

Agreement pending on appointment of bishops: sources

The Vatican may soon send a delegation to China before both sides reach a long-awaited agreement on the appointment of bishops, sources familiar with the matter told the Global Times.

There are no "disputes on issues of principle" between the two sides, and since the meeting between the two sides was previously held at the Vatican, the Vatican delegation will come to China this time for a meeting in late September, and if the meeting goes well, the agreement would be signed, a source familiar with the issue told the Global Times on Tuesday.

A Vatican source also confirmed with the Global Times last week that a prominent figure from the Holy See would probably come to China in late September, without further elaborating. 

China and the Vatican most likely agreed that the future bishops in China should be approved by the Chinese government and mandated by the Pope and the letter of appointment would be issued by the Pope, Wang Meixiu, an expert on Catholic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Before signing the agreement, the Holy See would deliver an official document to acknowledge seven Chinese bishops who are regarded as "illegitimate" by the Vatican, including some it previously had excommunicated, the source said. 

China considers the excommunications as an affront and the acknowledgement would show the Vatican's understanding of China's religious situation after rounds of interactions, Wang said.

"The agreement would be very broad on the Church in China and should also include provisions for future talks and changes," Francesco Sisci, a senior researcher at the Center of European Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The Vatican faced enormous pressure over the deal. Rome is taking everything into consideration and claims that the Vatican is "surrendering to China" is absolutely false, Sisci said.

"It may be possible to reach an agreement but it may also be that there are last minute developments. It is a moment to be very careful," he stressed.  "It is a historic agreement coming at a time of rising tensions around China. This makes the agreement even more significant for the Holy See, but also more delicate," Sisci said. 

One should not expect to solve complicated problems the Catholic Church in China faces today with one agreement, Wang said. 

The two sides still need further discussions on the complex situation in the different dioceses in the Episcopal selection, she said.

China has around 6.5 million Catholics with more than 7,000 clergymen, and around 6,000 churches and other Catholics sites, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association said in March. 

"The dialogue between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China continues," Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, said Saturday when asked to confirm whether the two sides would sign a deal on the appointment of bishops as early as the end of September.  

China's foreign ministry also stressed last week that the two sides have maintained efficient contact and that China is willing to push forward constructive dialogue and improve its relationship with the Vatican. 

The sources stressed that the ongoing negotiations will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.
Newspaper headline: Vatican may send delegation to China

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