China and Vatican to Sign Landmark Deal Over Bishops
By Francis X. Rocca
Wall Street Journal
September 14, 2018
Under agreement, Beijing would recognize pope as head of China’s Catholics in return for Vatican recognition of excommunicated Chinese bishops
China and the Vatican are set to sign a landmark agreement later this month ending a long struggle between Beijing’s Communist rulers and the pope over who controls Catholicism in the world’s most populous country, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Reactions to the deal, which gives both sides a say in appointing the church’s bishops in China, are likely to be sharply divided, with some hailing a diplomatic coup by the Vatican that draws China closer to the West and others warning of an important defeat for the principle of religious freedom.
The controversial deal would include the first official recognition by Beijing that the pope is the head of the Catholic Church in China. In return, Pope Francis would formally recognize seven excommunicated Chinese bishops who were appointed by the Communist government without Vatican approval.
“It is a baby step by China toward recognizing some of the framework of the Western world,” said Francesco Sisci, an Italian who teaches international relations at China Renmin University in Beijing. “It doesn’t go as far as recognizing what we in the West call religious freedom but it is a degree of religious autonomy.”
Others, including some U.S. diplomats, are concerned the pope is conceding a strong influence over church leadership to an avowedly atheist authoritarian regime.
Posted by Anne Barrett Doyle at 2:34 PM