Vatican agreement with China draws concerns amid crackdown

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Source: Associated Press

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN

BEIJING (AP) — The Vatican’s breakthrough agreement to give China some say over bishop appointments has critics accusing the church of caving in to the ruling Communist Party just as it is waging a sweeping crackdown on religion. Others say it’s an imperfect but much-needed step toward uniting Catholics in the world’s most populous country.

The agreement is a step toward addressing the long-cherished hope of bringing together China’s 12 million Catholics who are divided between those worshipping in state-sanctioned churches and the underground priests and parishioners loyal to the pope, who are frequently detained and harassed.

The specifics of the deal announced over the weekend are unknown. Pope Francis said this week that the agreement allows for a discussion with China on the naming of bishops but that ultimately the pope will decide.

“The thing is done in dialogue,” he said. “But Rome names. The pope names. This is clear.”

Even though the Vatican will retain the power to put forward candidates, Beijing will likely be given the right to refuse them, said Anthony Lam, an expert on the Chinese church at the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong.

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