Appearing on Italian state-run television RAI2 on Friday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin confirmed the return of a Holy See delegation from China as well as the probable renewal this fall of its secret accord with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regarding the appointment of bishops in China.
Parolin said that the provisional agreement first signed by the Holy See in 2018 with the CCP and renewed for two years in 2020 seeks to ensure that all bishops are in communion with the Pope, fully Chinese and fully Catholic. He acknowledged that there is still a long way to go, requiring patience to move forward and see the “seeds germinate.”
Last September, Pope Francis defended the Vatican deal with China but acknowledged that “mistakes” can be made.
“China is not easy, but I am convinced that we should not give up dialogue,” the pope said in an interview with Spanish radio. “You can be deceived in dialogue, you can make mistakes, all that… but it is the way.”
According to China expert Father Gianni Criveller of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), the pope was responding to the frequent criticisms that the Vatican-China deal has brought forth little fruit for Chinese Catholics and, instead, has silenced the Vatican from speaking out against China’s egregious human rights abuses, such as the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Critics of the Vatican-China deal have, in fact, insisted that the situation for Christians in China has not improved since the agreement was signed, but has significantly worsened. In June 2020, the U.S. Bishops published a scathing statement calling out the (CCP) for its ongoing violations of religious liberty and human rights.
Following the Vatican’s first renewal of the agreement with the CCP in 2020, the former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, described the extended deal as a “complete defeat” for faithful Catholics.
“The pope doesn’t know much about China. And he may have some sympathy for the Communists, because in South America, the Communists are good guys, they suffer for social justice,” Zen said. “But not the [Chinese] Communists. They are persecutors.”
“So the situation is, humanly speaking, hopeless for the Catholic Church: Because we can always expect the Communists to persecute the Church, but now [faithful Catholics] don’t get any help from the Vatican,” he said.
“The Vatican is helping the government, surrendering, giving everything into their hands,” Zen said.