Inside the Vatican-China Agreement: Explaining the Diplomatic Relations Between the Two States

Tags: Currents China, Crux, Faith, Media, Pope Francis, World News

This story originally aired in October 2020

Currents News Staff

The Holy See and China renewed for another two years, and experimentally, their agreement on the procedure for naming new bishops.

Long before becoming Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin was in Beijing twice. He can be considered a key contributor to this agreement.

“I’ve compared this agreement with a seed,” said Cardinal Parolin, “a seed sown on challenging land, where the Church still faces many difficulties. However, we hope that it will slowly produce fruit, with a lot of patience and without expecting to see sudden changes. I don’t think there will be immediate changes, but that’s the way the Holy See does politics. It’s a politics of small steps.”

The content of the agreement has not been made public, and in two years, it has only allowed for the appointment of two new Chinese bishops in communion with Rome, despite the fact that there are 50 vacant dioceses in China.

This agreement represents yet another important step, as the Vatican and China have not had diplomatic relations since Mao rose to power in 1950 and began repressing all religions.

In a press release, the Vatican praised Beijing’s decision to renew the agreement and expressed a desire to “pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”

“We’re going to start working together, with the Chinese people, on this matter,” said Cardinal Parolin. “I really hope progress and more improvements develop each day.”

In the middle of negotiations, Washington had pressured the Vatican to not renew the agreement, to which the Holy See responded that it wasn’t a political agreement but one of “ecclesiastical and pastoral value.