Vatican says China Violated Treaty on Bishops, Seeks Explanation

Vatican City: On Saturday, the Vatican blamed Chinese authorities for violating a bilateral pact on the appointment of bishops by introducing one in a diocese not recognized by the Holy See.

A statement said the Vatican learned with surprise and regret that the bishop of another district had been installed as auxiliary, or assistant, a bishop in Jiangxi. The unauthorized installation appeared to be one of the most serious infringements of a 2018 agreement between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of bishops.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The accord, which some Catholics have criticized as a sell-out to China’s Communist authorities, was last renewed for two years in October. Its details are still confidential.

Jiangxi is not recognized as a bishopric by the Vatican, the assertion said, adding that the installation did not conform to the spirit of dialogue that both sides had agreed to in 2018.

It said, without elaborating, that the installation of the bishop, Giovanni Peng Weizhao, followed strong pressure from local authorities. AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency, said Peng was secretly appointed a bishop with papal approval in 2014, four years before the accord, and spent six months under arrest at the time.

The statement said the Vatican was awaiting an explanation from the Chinese authorities and was hoping “that similar episode will not be repeated.”

The deal was a bid to ease a long-standing rift between an underground flock loyal to the pope and the state-backed official church in mainland China. For the first time since the 1950s, both sides recognized the Pope as the supreme leader of the Catholic Church. Critics, including the former archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, have denounced it as offering too many concessions to China.

The Vatican statement comes a day after a Hong Kong court found Zen and five others guilty of failing to register a now-disbanded fund for pro-democracy protesters. Only six new bishops have been appointed since the deal was struck, which its opponents say proves it is not producing the desired effect. They also point to increasing restrictions on religious freedom for Christians and other minorities in China.

When the deal was last renewed, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, its chief architect, said that while the achievements since 2018 “may seem small,” in the context of a conflicted history they were “important steps toward the progressive healing of the wounds inflicted” on the Chinese Church.

By Archana

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