Should Taiwan feel threatened by closer China-Vatican relations?

China accepted two Vatican-approved bishops in the first elections since provisional agreement was signed in September last year.

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Image/Associated Press

Image/Associated Press

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Since the signing of a provisional agreement on appointing bishops in September last year, China recently elected two Vatican-approved bishops, showing a “positive sign” of good faith.

Catholic news agency Ucanews.com confirmed last week that the two bishops elected were Father Yao Shun (姚順) of Jining in Inner Mongolia, and Father Xu Hongwei (胥洪偉) of Hanzhong in Shaanxi province. Although they have been elected, both are yet to be installed as bishops by the Holy See.

For decades, the Catholic Church in China has been split between a government-controlled church and an underground church loyal to the Vatican. Could the provisional agreement signed last September and the two bishop elections held this month be seen as a positive sign for the relations between China and Vatican?

Perhaps not so fast. Father Sergio Ticozzi, a Hong Kong-based expert on China-Vatican affairs told the South China Morning Post that Yao was approved by the Holy See at least six years ago. Commenting on the elections being held at local hotels with government officials and police present, Father Ticozzi said, “[The elections at the hotels] are political ceremonies. I think [the authorities] want to emphasize that [the candidates are] state officials before their religious roles.”