BEIJING – China's head of religious affairs said that Beijing is willing to have constructive dialogue with the Vatican but stressed that Catholics should "hold up high the flag of patriotism" and adapt Catholicism to Chinese society. Wang Zuo'an, the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, made the remarks Tuesday at a meeting of China's official Catholic Church, which includes bishops, priests and lay Catholics, state media reported. Beijing insists that the party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has the authority to appoint Chinese bishops, a right that the Holy See says belongs to the pope alone. This dispute over bishop nominations is the most vexing stumbling block preventing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. China severed relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communists took over, and the officially atheistic government closed churches and imprisoned priests, some for decades.
The Vatican and China are preparing to renew a historic deal on the appointment of bishops that has slightly thawed icy relations, but has angered the United States. Pope Francis has given the go-ahead for the renewal of the agreement, which is still in "experimental" mode, for another two years, AFP news agency reported on Tuesday. The extension is expected to be signed next month, according to a source close to the dossier. Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin indicated Beijing's relationship with the Vatican has been improving. Pope Francis has been working hard to repair ties with the Communist country, but his overtures have come into conflict with US President Donald Trump's efforts to push a religious freedom theme against China in his campaign for a second term.
BEIJING – China has made real efforts toward establishing relations with the Vatican, a Chinese official said Tuesday, as expectations grow for a landmark accord between the Holy See and Beijing on the appointment of bishops. Chinese Catholics are split between those who attend officially sanctioned churches run by government-approved bishops and technically illegal "underground" churches, the vast majority of which are loyal to the Vatican. Full relations would give the Church a legal framework to look after all of China's estimated 12 million Catholics and move on to focus on Catholic growth in a country where Protestant churches are already growing fast. The details of a framework accord that could eventually lead to diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing were worked out when a Vatican delegation visited China late last year. "From our government's prospective we have always maintained an honest desire to improve relations and the Chinese government has always made real efforts (toward this)," Chen Zongrong, former vice head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said at a news briefing.
The original agreement, signed in 2018, was the most significant rapprochement between Beijing and the Holy See since China severed diplomatic relations in 1951. The hackers, probably state-sponsored group RedDelta, carried out a series of cyberattacks aimed at the Vatican starting in early May, said cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, in a report published Tuesday. Recorded Future, based in Somerville, Mass., has investigated Chinese hacking groups in the past, including one that was later linked to a U.S. Justice Department indictment in 2017. Its allegations on the Vatican cyberattacks were first reported by the New York Times. Targets of RedDelta's hacking efforts included the Diocese of Hong Kong and the city's Holy See Study Mission, which has played a crucial role in the Vatican's negotiations with Beijing, according to Recorded Future.