China and Vatican will reach accord ‘sooner or later’, says newspaper

Holy See could switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan if Pope Francis agrees deal

Pope Francis has sought to make a deal with China since he became pontiff in March 2013. Photograph: Reuters

Pope Francis has sought to make a deal with China since he became pontiff in March 2013. Photograph: Reuters

 

An accord establishing diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing will come “sooner or later” because of the current pope’s “wisdom” and will be “tremendously beneficial to Catholics”, a leading Chinese newspaper has said.

A framework deal has been worked out and could be signed within a few months, according to recent media reports.

“Despite the difficult process, China’s vast numbers of non-Catholics have never been strongly against the Vatican. The Chinese public generally respects each Pope,” the Global Times said in an editorial that ran in both its English-language and Chinese editions.

Pope Francis has sought to make a deal with China since he became pontiff in March 2013, and he has said many times that he believes the future of the church is in Asia.

The Global Times is a tabloid that reflects nationalist sentiment and is published by the same group that publishes the official Communist Party organ, People’s Daily.

“Beijing and the Vatican will establish diplomatic relations sooner or later . . . Pope Francis has a positive image with the Chinese public. It is expected he will push China-Vatican ties forward and solve related problems with his wisdom,” it said.

Underground

In order to worship openly in China, Catholics are required to join the official China Patriotic Catholic Association, which has about 5.5 million members. Many Catholics choose to worship in “underground” churches, and there are reckoned to be about 10 million Catholics in China.

A major sticking point between Beijing and the Holy See has been the appointment of bishops. There are about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican, and it is informally accepted that many are now approved by both.

A major issue has been the seven Chinese bishops that the Vatican considers illegitimate as they were ordained without papal mandate (there were originally eight, but one died).

Official relations between the Vatican and Beijing were cut when the papal nuncio was expelled in 1951, two years after the defeat of the Nationalist KMT in China’s civil war. Since then the Vatican has recognised Taiwan, and is the only European power that gives diplomatic status to the self-ruled island.

It is thought that the Holy See will switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan if an accord is reached.

The Global Times rejoiced in the prospect of angering the independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party, led by Tsai Ing-wen.

“The Vatican is the only ‘ally’ to Taiwan in Europe, and, given the Holy See’s special appeal, it would be a heavy blow to the Democratic Progressive Party if the Vatican severed ties with Taiwan,” it said.

Last week, 86-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen from Hong Kong accused the Vatican of “selling out” the church in China.