The Vatican accused China of violating an international agreement and appointing a bishop in a diocese not recognized by the Holy See.
“It was with surprise and regret that the Holy See learned of the news of the ‘installation ceremony’ that took place on 24 November in Nanchang, of H.E. Bishop Giovanni Peng Weizhao, Bishop of Yujiang (Jiangxi Province), as ‘Auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi’, a diocese not recognized by the Holy See,” the Vatican said in a statement Saturday.
The installation of the bishop would be one of the most serious violations of China’s pact with the Vatican, which was originally signed in 2018. While the exact terms of the agreement are unknown, it is thought the deal allows for a jurisdiction-sharing agreement on the appointment of bishops, a departure from the Catholic Church’s typical process.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass with members of different religious orders in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
The agreement has been roundly panned by international observers, who have accused the Catholic Church of caving to China’s communist government.
Despite those critiques, the Vatican renewed the deal with the Chinese Communist Party last month, inviting renewed backlash.
“The first agreement, signed in 2018, was intended to be experimental, but its results have been grim. In the past two years alone, the Chinese government has raided church services, imprisoned non-compliant priests and removed crosses from churches,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an international religious persecution watchdog, told Fox News at the time. “(The deal) gives the Vatican and the CCP shared authority over the appointment of bishops in the country.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The Vatican has now demanded an explanation from China on the unauthorized installation, noting that reports indicate the move was made under pressure from local authorities.
“Such an event, in fact, has not taken place in conformity with the spirit of dialogue that exists between the Vatican parties and the Chinese parties and what has been stipulated in the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops of 22 September 2018,” the statement said. “In addition, the civil recognition of Bishop Peng was preceded, according to reports received, by prolonged and intense pressure by the local Authorities.”
Icicles adorn one of the fountains in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
But the Vatican also expressed a willingness to continue working with the Chinese government if the Chinese Communist Party sticks to the terms of the 2018 agreement.
“The Holy See hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, is awaiting the appropriate communication about the matter from the Authorities, and reaffirms its complete willingness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all of the matters of common interest,” the statement said.