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Vatican determined to renew accord with China despite US criticism

Anonymous sources in Vatican warn Pompeo's criticism only strengthens Holy See-China relations

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent criticism of the Vatican for warming up to China, Holy See officials have warned that American intervention will only enhance its resolve to renew the secretive deal it signed with China.

Last week, Reuters reported that Pope Francis had agreed to a two-year extension of a Sino-Vatican pact regarding the appointment of Catholic bishops in China. The original agreement, signed in September 2018, allows the Pope to appoint and veto bishops approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is labeled by pro-democracy activists as a catalyst for further religious persecution in the authoritarian country.

On Friday (Sept. 18), Pompeo in an editorial published by religious journal First Things warned against renewing the agreement while the CCP continues to commit human rights violations. The secretary of state, who is expected to visit the Vatican in a few days, emphasized that the decision would endanger the authority and moral positioning of the Vatican.

However, the Vatican has interpreted Pompeo's words as overt "interference," stressing that it will not shift its position on the interim deal, according to Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference. The report said his comment not only damages the Vatican's relations with the U.S. but also strengthens its ties with China.

Three Vatican officials who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity also said the Holy See was "surprised" by Pompeo's comment. They said it was "not a normal way" to set an agenda.

Meanwhile, a former Vatican official told Catholic News Service that the U.S. would not be pleased if other countries publicly criticized its diplomatic relations. He acknowledged that the treaty has not ended religious prosecution in China but insisted that dialogue is crucial to bilateral communication and that the Vatican will not relinquish its breakthrough with Beijing.