Pope Francis is said to have agreed to a two-year extension of the controversial agreement with China on the appointment of Catholic bishops in the authoritarian country, according to Reuters.
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The secret treaty, signed earlier between the Vatican and Beijing in September 2018, is the first public agreement between the two countries since they severed diplomatic relations in 1951 and allowed the Pope appoint and veto the bishops approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Although pro-democracy activists have opposed the deal and have described it as a catalyst for religious persecution in China, a senior Vatican official said on Monday. 9) that Pope Francis has decided to continue the extension.
The source said the Vatican believes it is “cautious” enough to extend the two-year deal after its expiration this month. He added that Hong Kong was not included in the renewal as many were concerned and there was no change to the region.
The source said the decision was carefully evaluated and it was not easy to deal with “an atheist communist regime” that does not take religion seriously. He also pointed out that having a deal is better than not having a deal.
Since coming into force two years ago, the temporary agreement has raised concerns about the CCP’s use of it to suppress worshipers outside of “patriotic” churches. However, experts say that the Vatican is seeing this as an opportunity to heal relations with China after nearly 70 years of standoff.
Meanwhile, speculations about the Vatican possibly ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan have also emerged. In response, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Tuesday (September 15) that it maintains “smooth” contact with its only European diplomatic ally, New Talk news.
Xuan Lan (according to Taiwan News)