Pope and China to jointly decide on appointing Catholic bishops

Since the Communist takeover in 1949, the Catholic Church has had limited control in China with a split between underground and state-sponsored churches. This new compromise could signal a new direction for the faithful and a step toward restoring diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Beijing.    

Damir Sagolj/Reuters
A man decorates a government-sanctione­d Catholic church a day before Easter in Youtong village, Hebei province, China, on March 31, 2018.

Pope Francis urged China's leaders on Wednesday to move ahead with "trust, courage and farsightedness" after Beijing and the Vatican struck a landmark agreement on the appointment of bishops.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China was sincere about wanting better relations with the Vatican and that the bishops' agreement was an important step forward.

The accord, which critics have called a sellout to the Communist government, gives the Vatican a say in the choice of bishops in China. It could also be a precursor to restoring diplomatic ties with Beijing after more than 70 years. The Vatican only has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, China's rival.

In a message addressed to Chinese Catholics, Francis said that while they should be good citizens of their country, they should not shrink from offering "a word of criticism" when necessary to defend human dignity.

China's 12 million Catholics have been split between an underground church swearing loyalty to the Vatican and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association. The Vatican said the absence of a deal could have led to a schism between Chinese Catholics that would have been difficult to heal.

The pope's five-page message included a section in which he addressed Chinese government leaders directly, saying he wanted to "renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage and farsightedness, the dialog begun some time ago."

He said the Vatican would "work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people."

With the accord, which both sides have said is provisional and will not be published, the Beijing government effectively recognizes the pope as leader of all Catholics in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang welcomed the agreement, saying: "China is willing to continue to meet the Vatican side halfway and have constructive dialogue, increasing understanding, and accumulating mutual trust, to promote the process of continuing to improve relations."

Hurdles ahead in deciding final control of bishops

Francis said he realized that some Chinese Catholics who have been persecuted for their loyalty to him might feel abandoned but urged them to have faith in the new arrangement.

"Open your hearts and minds to discern the merciful plan of God, who asks us to rise above personal prejudices and conflicts between groups and communities, in order to undertake a courageous fraternal journey in the light of an authentic culture of encounter," he said.

Rights groups accuse China of human right violations, something that critics of the agreement have highlighted.

The pope said Chinese Catholics should love and serve their country, but added their faith mandated them to defend values.

"At times, this may also require of them the effort to offer a word of criticism ... for the sake of building a society that is more just, humane, and respectful of the dignity of each person," he said.

New bishops will now first be proposed by members of local Catholic communities together with Chinese authorities. The names will then be sent to the Vatican and the pope will have the final say.

As part of the deal, the pope recognized the legitimacy of seven bishops whom the government named without papal approval.

Since the deal was signed, the Vatican has not mentioned Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a rebel province. China does not allow countries to have diplomatic ties with both it and Taiwan. 

This story was reported by Reuters. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Pope and China to jointly decide on appointing Catholic bishops
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today