Diplomatic relations would not be addressed in an agreement between China and the Holy See that is reportedly ready to be signed before the end of the month to settle a long-standing dispute over the nomination of bishops, a US Jesuit magazine reported on Tuesday.
The question “was not raised in the present negotiations with Beijing, nor was the question of the Holy See’s relations with Taiwan,” reported America, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Holy See is Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Europe.
Photo: CNA, courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of China to the Holy See
Taiwan has lost five allies since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, as China has stepped up its suppression of Taiwan’s international presence in response to Tsai’s cross-strait stance.
Amid media speculation over the content of the agreement, which reports say could lead to the Holy See establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing, the America report cited Vatican sources as saying that the deal would bring together China’s state-backed and unauthorized Catholic communities.
A high-level Vatican delegation is to travel to Beijing for the signing, the magazine said, adding that a date has already been fixed.
“The agreement only deals with the question of the nomination of bishops. It gives each side a say in the selection of candidates, but it recognizes that the pope will have the final word in the appointment of bishops for the Catholic Church throughout mainland China,” the report said.
China and the Holy See consider it “a provisional agreement” to be revisited in a few years, it said.
The Holy See recognizes that it is “not a good agreement,” but believes “it is the only one possible at present and that, in a small, but highly significant way, it opens the door to developing a constructive and improving dialogue with the world’s emerging superpower,” the magazine said.
The report said that the text of the agreement would not be made public, even after it has been signed.
In contrast, a report by the Global Times, a newspaper owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, on Tuesday quoted the agreement as saying that “future bishops in China should be approved by the Chinese government and mandated by the pope and the letter of appointment would be issued by the pope.”
Citing Francesco Sisci, a senior researcher at the Center of European Studies at China’s Renmin University, the Global Times said that the agreement “would be rather broad on the church in China and should also include provisions for future talks and changes.”
The agreement is the result of negotiations that were revived after Pope Francis took over in March 2013, America said, adding that the administration of US President Donald Trump is not happy with the agreement, a position shared by the US Catholic Church and others.
“They see it as weakening the struggle for religious freedom in China and point to the crackdown on religion in that country in recent months under [Chinese] President Xi Jinping [習近平],” the magazine said.
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