What’s the deal with the Vatican’s agreement with China?

1 October 2020
Image: Annie Spratt/Unsplash


With the 2018 Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China due to expire on the 22nd October, the Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin recently indicated the Vatican’s intention for a two-year extension to the treaty.  To recap, the Provisional Agreement specifically refers to the process for the appointment of bishops in China. The Vatican continues to be very concerned about human rights abuses everywhere.

This situation has provoked a variety of commentaries.  Below we have published two opinion pieces on the debate.


Cafeteria anti-Catholicism: Trump, the Vatican and China

By Massimo Faggioli, La Croix International

If the Vatican made human rights compliance a precondition of its engagement with other States, it would not only lose all influence in the world: it couldn’t have relations with the United States.

The US presidential campaign seems at times to have become an almost intra-Catholic affair, especially after President Donald Trump nominated a Catholic to be the next Justice on the Supreme Court.

If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett would be the sixth of the nine justices who are members of the Catholic Church. A seventh justice, Neil Gorsuch, was baptized and raised Catholic.

Barrett’s nomination shows that Trump’s administration and campaign team have a Catholic agenda.

It is aimed at capitalizing on the antipathy that sectors of the United States, including among vocal and influential Catholics, have shown towards Pope Francis since the beginning of this pontificate in 2013.

Trump’s Catholic agenda is a domestic strategy with an international dimension.

Mike Pompeo attacks the Vatican’s policy on China

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets top Vatican officials this week in Rome – Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State; and British Archbishop Paul Gallagher who, as deputy Secretary for Relations with States, is Pompeo’s counterpart.

One person Pompeo will not meet when he goes to the Vatican is Pope Francis.

The pope must avoid any appearance that he is being used for political purposes just a few weeks before a presidential election. But he must also avoid being entangled in the serious crisis in the transatlantic relations that have to do with China.

Mr. Pompeo mounted an unprecedented attack against the sovereignty of the Holy See in an article published September 18 in the conservative Catholic magazine First Things.

He accused Francis and papal diplomats of not deploying “the moral witness and authority” of the Catholic Church when dealing with the Chinese government.

Secretary Pompeo doubled down on this message soon after arriving in Rome when he spoke at a September 30 symposium on religious freedom organized by the US Embassy to the Holy See.


Vatican set to double down on very ordinary deal with Beijing

By Michael Sainsbury, UCA News

With rising global awareness of the full horror of Xi Jinping’s China amid the pandemic, the renewal comes at a bad time.

In the past two years, the full horror of Xi Jinping’s plans for the People’s Republic of China have crystallized, particularly for its far-flung western provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang, annexed in the 1950s, and most recently Hong Kong.

Xi’s vision is of an authoritarian, technological surveillance state that spies upon and controls its population, regulating exactly what people can and can’t do for work, leisure and even in the spiritual realm.

The Vatican appears set to renew its two-year-old agreement with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the appointment of bishops, yet it could not come at a worse time.

Even from a purely logistical point of view, the two sides have struggled to have face-to-face meetings this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has shown in the timing of the renewal of the deal that both sides have said they want.

It’s worth taking a step back and having a look at who — so far — has got what and whether the objectives of both sides have been achieved

From the outset, the Vatican, having so relentlessly pursued some sort of deal over decades and through three papacies beginning with St. John Paul II, was in a weaker position by dint of being the supplicant in the relationship. Unlike his two predecessors, who balked at the last hurdle of taking a substandard deal with Beijing, Pope Francis, a Jesuit, holds the hopes of his pioneering order that sent Christendom’s first successful mission to China.

So it’s hardly surprising that Beijing scored the early wins, prime amongst them the lifting of excommunication of bishops and the imprimatur of the Holy Father on the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Indeed, it’s hard to see that it needs much else.

Beijing is clearly keen to run the clock down on some of the older bishops who are now into their ninth and tenth decades, and this makes some sense from both sides. The underlying problem is that, as in most places in the West, China’s general population is aging and its seminaries — for a range of reasons including demographics but also increased religious repression — are not producing enough priests to fill its parishes or bishops for its dioceses.

But perhaps the most important question is whether the Vatican has made any headway at all in arguably its key goal for making such a deal with a regime that actively loathes all expressions of religion: Rome’s evangelical hopes in China.

Continue reading this article from UCA News.





Read Daily
* indicates required