China Catholic bishops: Historic deal with Vatican reached

Young Chinese Catholics prayImage copyright
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There are at least 10 million Catholics in China

Pope Francis has recognised seven bishops appointed by China as part of a historic accord to improve ties between the Vatican and the communist country.

The issue of who appoints bishops has been at the heart of a dispute since China first broke off diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1951.

China has some 10 million Catholics.

Pope Francis hopes the deal “will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome” and bring about full Catholic unity in China, the Vatican said.

Beijing has long insisted that the state must approve the appointment of bishops in China, running contrary to the Catholic Church’s insistence that it is a papal decision.

Currently, Catholics in China face the choice of attending state-sanctioned churches approved by Beijing or worshipping in underground congregations that have sworn allegiance to the Vatican.

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Media captionFather Dong Guanhua has been kicked out of the Chinese Catholic church for calling himself a bishop

The details of the “provisional agreement”, signed in Beijing by China’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Wang Chao, and the Vatican undersecretary for state relations, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, were not immediately known.

The Vatican described it as “the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement”, which had followed a “long process of careful negotiation” and would allow for periodic reviews.

Beijing said it hoped the accord would lead to better relations with the Church.

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