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Vatican extends pact concerning bishop appointment with China

Taiwan's foreign ministry has commented on the latest development

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Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s only European ally, the Holy See, on Thursday (Oct. 22) is set to renew the provisional agreement with China it first inked in 2018.

"Everything will be fine," the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin commented on the latest development of the agreement at an event in Rome on Wednesday. Both the Vatican and China have agreed to extend the agreement for another two years.

"The agreement does not concern diplomatic relations nor does it foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations,” stressed Parolin. He said no bilateral talks about diplomatic ties have been carried out between the Vatican and China.

Joanne Ou (歐江安), spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said on Thursday “Taiwan highly values this solemn commitment and has maintained close contacts with the Holy See, expressing our concern and position.”

“Taiwan hopes that [the agreement] can help improve the worsening situation of religious freedom in the PRC,” said Ou. “Unfortunately, as the PRC government has stepped up measures to persecute local Catholic communities... religious freedom and human rights in China have continued to deteriorate,” she added.

The Vatican secretary of state on Wednesday expressed approval of the result of the historic pact, which deals mainly with the selection of Chinese bishops. Shortly after the accord was signed in September 2018, Pope Francis appointed seven bishops from a list approved by Beijing.

Critics on the contrary have argued that the deal has not helped improve the conditions of the Catholics or other religious minorities in China. Before his trip to Rome, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Sept. 20 that "the CCP’s abuse of the faithful has only gotten worse” since the implementation of the agreement.

"The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal,” he tweeted. Pompeo later urged the Vatican not to renew the pact with China, reports said.

The Vatican signed the accord with China with the hope of eliminating the division between the Catholic Patriotic Association recognized by Chinese authorities and the “underground community” that has long obeyed only the pope in Rome.

“There are no more illegitimate bishops, this seems to me a remarkable step forward," said Parolin on Wednesday.

“From here on, it is a question of starting again and then, step by step, creating the conditions for the normalization of the Church in China," the Vatican official said as reported by the Vatican News. Yet he also acknowledged that the agreement cannot solve all the problems in China.