A step towards full diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican

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Source: The Economist

MANY recent reports about religion in China have concerned repression, from the mass internment of Muslims in the north-west to the demolition or closure of Protestant churches. But in recent days there has been a breakthrough, albeit one whose details are very hard to fathom, in relations between the Chinese government and the Holy See.

The world’s most populous country and the world’s largest Christian body have negotiated for years with at least two aims in mind: establishing full diplomatic relations and resolving the deep division among China’s 12m-or-so Catholics. The division pits bishops who are appointed by the Chinese state but unrecognised by the Vatican, against “underground” prelates who see themselves as answerable only to Rome.

Under a provisional deal announced in outline at the weekend, Pope Francis has accepted the legitimacy of seven bishops appointed by the Beijing authorities in exchange for a say in how bishops in China will be chosen in future. As a result, it seems inevitable that some underground bishops will have to step aside in favour of state-approved ones: that will be a bitter pill for some Chinese Catholics to swallow.

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