China, Vatican Close to a Breakthrough Deal on Bishop Appointment: Report
China and the Vatican are heading towards reconciliation after almost six decades of animosity. This is what head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong has suggested in a lengthy essay published diocese's website on Thursday.
Cardinal John Tong claims that both China and Vatican are close to a breakthrough deal on Bishop appointment in Mainland China, suggesting that the Pope could retain the veto power of Bishop appointment under the new arrangement.
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However, Cardinal Tong did not shed much light on the details of the proposed deal.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke on Friday confirmed that the talks with Beijing were "a work in progress," but refused to comment anything further.
Many have shrugged off Tong's views in the essay as his personal opinion. However, others have noted that it could indeed be an insight into developments between China and the Vatican.
The issue of Bishop appointment is apparently the bone of contention in the decades-long dispute between the two countries. Beijing snatched the authority of appointment from the Holy See in 1951 and since then has maintained a monopoly over the issue.
The Vatican and China pursued series of quiet negotiations during the late 1980's to resolve the contentious issue. Both countries even reached an informal deal for the mutual recognition of Bishops. However, Beijing has been accused of violating the deal by unilaterally ordaining Bishops without Rome's official consent.
If the breakthrough deal is sealed during the on-going negotiation, then it would be seen as a major diplomatic victory for Pope Francis, who has been desperately seeking to improve ties with the world's most populous nation. Unlike most of his predecessors, he has not been very critical of China's so-called human right violations record and also has been less enthusiastic in meeting the controversial spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
However, Pope Francis' eagerness to improve ties with Beijing has met with stinging criticisms from several Catholic churches across Mainland China. They claim that Rome is likely to compromise on several key issues in its eagerness to improve ties with the Chinese government.
The Vatican's diplomatic relation with Taiwan is also likely to become a bone of contention if the breakthrough deal is sealed. The Vatican is apparently the only European country that officially recognizes Taiwan.