BEIJING: China and the Vatican will push to improve bilateral ties after the two sides signed a “provisional” agreement on the appointment of bishops on Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
The ministry said in a brief statement that the deal was signed in Beijing by vice foreign minister Wang Chao and a Vatican delegation headed by the under secretary for relations with state, Antoine Camilleri.
The statement did not give details about the “provisional agreement”.
“The two sides will continue to maintain communication and push forward the improvement of bilateral relations,” the ministry said.
The Vatican and China broke relations in 1951 and have been at loggerheads for decades over who gets to appoint bishops.
The Communist government created the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association to administer the church in the world’s most populous country in 1957.
This led to the splitting of the country’s Catholic flock between worshipers who follow government-appointed bishops and those who attend “underground” unofficial churches loyal to the Vatican.
Beijing insisted that it had the right to ordain its own bishops, defying the Holy See, which says ordinations can only go ahead with the pope’s blessing.
Earlier this year, a source close to the matter told AFP that the agreement would include the Vatican recognizing seven bishops who were chosen by the Chinese government but had never been accepted by the Holy See.
Three of those bishops had reportedly been excommunicated.
In return, Beijing would recognize the pope’s authority as head of Catholics in China, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Two underground Chinese bishops, recognized by the pope, have been asked by a top Vatican diplomat to resign in favor of state-sanctioned prelates, including one who was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011.–AFP