On Saturday, the Vatican announced that China had broken their agreement with the Vatican over the appointment of bishops. In a statement issued on Nov. 26, the Vatican expressed its disappointment with the installation of Bishop John Peng Weizhao as the “auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,” a diocese that is not officially recognized by the Vatican.
China Allegedly Violating Pact with The Vatican
According to a statement issued by the Vatican, Bishop John Peng Weizhao’s installation ceremony in Nanchang, China, did not follow the provisions of the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops or the spirit of dialogue between the two parties issued on Sep. 22, 2018, Catholic News Agency reported.
Reports of lengthy and intense pressure from local authorities before the installation were also taken into account.
While Peng was officially appointed by Pope Francis in 2014, he was arrested by Chinese authorities and held in detention for six months after being installed as an underground bishop of Yujiang.
CNA also revealed that The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association said on its website that on Nov. 24, with the blessing of the Jiangxi Provincial Catholic Educational Affairs Committee and the blessing of the Chinese Catholic bishops’ conference, Peng was formally installed as bishop.
About 200 individuals attended the installation ceremony presided over by the Bishop John Baptist Suguang Li of Nanching. Li is the vice president of the Chinese Bishops’ Conference, which has not been officially recognized by the Holy See despite Li’s leadership role within the organization.
A month after the Vatican extended its agreement with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops for another two years, the new bishops were installed.
David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an international religious persecution watchdog, said that the first agreement, which was signed in 2018, had the intention of being an experiment; nonetheless, the outcomes have been disappointing.
In the past two years alone, the Chinese government has raided church services, imprisoned non-compliant priests and removed crosses from churches,” Curry added, as quoted by WFIN.
In the midst of the controversy, on Monday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it was unaware of the exact situation after the Vatican accused Chinese officials of violating a bilateral pact.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that China and the Vatican have been in communication and have come to a number of major agreements in recent years.
As a result, China-Vatican relations have improved and are helping to foster a more peaceful evolution of Chinese Catholicism, he mentioned.
“Dialogue is the way of the best diplomacy,” Pope Francis says
Pope Francis recently conducted an interview with America Magazine, in which he admitted that the Vatican-China relationship has had both achievements and disappointments, but that he is at a loss for how to conduct diplomacy in any other way.
According to another report published by Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis said, “Dialogue is the way of the best diplomacy,” as he mentioned that he could not find any other way aside from communicating with China.
Pope Francis praised Chinese people and he said that they deserve his respect. He also added that he is attempting to have a dialogue with them, as they are also Christians, who need to be cared for in order to become “good Chinese and good Christians,” as the report stated.