Chinese priests express concern over Vatican’s ‘deal with the devil’
SECRET talks between the Vatican and Beijing are raising hopes of a “historic” rapprochement after six decades of estrangement, but some Chinese clergy fear that Rome will accept a Communist stranglehold over the country’s Catholics.
Since becoming head of the Holy See in 2013 Pope Francis has tried to improve relations with the Chinese government in the hope of reconnecting with Catholics in China who are divided between two denominations, loyal to either Rome or Beijing.
But opponents – among them the respected Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen – say the agreement risks abandoning believers and amounts to a deal with the devil.
Since January, Chinese and Vatican officials have met at least four times, including in Rome, to try and resolve the delicate issue of the appointment of bishops – the heart of the dispute.
Each side has long insisted that it should have the final say – the Vatican as God’s representative on Earth, and the Communist Party as the final arbiter on all issues in China.
“We’re hoping for a very important, historic agreement that we’ve been waiting for for nearly 70 years,” said Jeroom Heyndrickx, a Belgian priest who has been involved with Chinese Catholics since the 1950s.
“A Chinese delegation will head to Rome this month for a last round of negotiations,” he said.
China and the Vatican have not had diplomatic relations since 1951. The country’s roughly 12 million Catholics are divided between the government-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party, and an unofficial church where bishops named by the Vatican are not recognised by Beijing.
The agreement is expected to see the Vatican recognise four out of the eight CPCA bishops it does not currently acknowledge, according to Father Heyndrickx.
Beijing could also name two new bishops in Shanxi and Sichuan provinces with Rome’s blessing. The two would also agree on how to select future bishops. –