BEIJING, Nov. 28 (AP) — Beijing and the Vatican are once again entangled over the thorny issue of appointing Chinese bishops.
After the Vatican complained that Beijing violated the 2018 interim agreement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that China was willing to expand the “friendly consensus” reached with the Vatican on the nomination of bishops.
The Vatican issued an unusually harsh statement on Saturday, complaining that Beijing appointed Bishop Peng Weizhao on November 24 as auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi province, which the Vatican does not recognize as a diocese.
China and the Vatican have not had diplomatic relations since the Communist Party came to power in 1951 and expelled foreign priests.
In recent years, the Vatican has sought to build ties and reduce friction, especially when it comes to appointing bishops.
At Monday’s daily briefing, Zhao said he did not know the specifics of Bishop Peng, but said relations between China and the Vatican had improved in recent years to benefit Chinese Catholicism and “develop harmoniously”.
“China is willing to continuously expand friendly consensus with the Vatican and jointly maintain the spirit of our provisional agreement,” he told reporters.
The Vatican said in a statement that Peng’s inauguration followed “long-term and intense pressure from local authorities”.
The Vatican statement said that “in fact, the incident did not proceed in the spirit of the dialogue” or as required by the 2018 agreement.
Since the breakdown in relations, Catholics in China have been divided between those belonging to the official, state-sanctioned Church and the underground Church loyal to the Pope.
The total number of Catholics in China is estimated to be between 6 million and 12 million, and they worship in recognized patriotic Catholic churches and underground churches.
The Vatican’s efforts at reconciliation led to its willingness to sign an agreement in 2018 that it acknowledged was far from ideal, regulating the status of several bishops and paving the way for future nominations.
Full details of the agreement have never been made public, but Pope Francis has claimed he has the final say on the process.
The deal, seen as a step toward friendly relations that would help fill dozens of vacant seats, has been sharply criticized by many, including Hong Kong’s influential bishop emeritus Cardinal Chan.
AsiaNews, which closely follows the Catholic Church in China, says that Francis secretly appointed Peng Bishop of Yujiang in 2014, four years before the 2018 agreement, explaining the Holy See’s lament that he was appointed by Beijing to another diocese but it doesn’t. do not know.
This is the first time the Vatican has explicitly accused Beijing of violating the 2018 agreement, just a month after it was renewed for two years.
The Holy See expressed the hope that “similar incidents will not be repeated”.
Led by nationalist leader Xi Jinping, the formally atheist Communist Party pressures all religions to “sinicize,” meaning they must strictly abide by its rules in all matters and reject foreign interference.
Strict anti-COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine rules have also disrupted religious services for most of the four years since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)