The Vatican and China said Saturday they had signed a "provisional agreement" over the appointment of bishops, a breakthrough on an issue that stymied diplomatic relations for decades and aggravated a split among Chinese Catholics, the AP reports. The deal resolved one of the major sticking points in recent years, with the Vatican agreeing to accept seven bishops who were previously named by Beijing without the pope's consent. The development comes nearly seven decades after the Holy See and Beijing severed official relations. Beijing's long-held insistence that it must approve bishop appointments in China had clashed with absolute papal authority to pick bishops.
With the status of the seven bishops now reconciled, the Vatican says all bishops in China are in communion with Rome—even though the Catholic community in China is still split between Catholics who belong to the official Chinese church and those in the underground church who remain loyal to the pope. "Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics," per a Vatican statement. Some Chinese Catholics have opposed such a deal, notably Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who previously called it a sell-out of Chinese Catholics who refused to join the state Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and who paid the price of remaining faithful to Rome during years of persecution. Click for the full story.