2018 Holy See–China Agreement

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Holy See

The 2018 Holy See–China Agreement was an historic agreement signed by Chinese government and the Vatican on 22 September 2018 concerning the appointment of bishops in China. China's foreign ministry said that the agreement works to maintain communications and improve relations between the parties. They did not establish diplomatic relations and the Vatican maintained diplomatic ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan, which the People's Republic of China does not recognize. While the agreement states that China will recommend bishops before they are appointed by the pope, it also stipulates that the pope has authority to veto a bishop China recommends.


  • At a time when much of the rest of the world is starting to wake up to the repression, mendacity, and dangers of the Chinese Communist Party regime, the Vatican is getting even deeper in bed with it. And at a time when that regime is intensifying repression of religion—including Catholics—in China, Pope Francis is renewing an accord with Beijing that has yielded no benefits yet save for President Xi Jinping and only disunity and suffering for the Catholic Church.
  • The agreement just renewed between the Holy See and China is not [a peace accord] between the two sides: it is not the end of the troubles for Catholics in China, nor does it sanction religious freedom in China. It is a compromise, strongly contested by many and celebrated with excessive enthusiasm by others. It is not a situation that is advantageous to everyone. I believe that the Vatican paid a higher price than Beijing. It is an agreement that perhaps the Holy See could not have renounced without causing further difficulties to Catholics in China.
  • The document makes no provision for any papal role in the process, not even a papal right to approve or veto episcopal appointments in China, which was supposed to be the single substantive concession to the Vatican in the agreement. It’s as if the deal never happened.
  • Supporters argue that the deal represents a step forward as it unites Catholics in China under the authority of the pope. But critics argue that the deal would only embolden the Chinese leadership in their persecution of religious minorities, and provide moral legitimacy to a repressive regime.
  • As part of the 2018 agreement, the Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear, confusing Chinese Catholics who had always trusted the Church. Many refuse to worship in state-sanctioned places of worship, for fear that by revealing themselves as faithful Catholics they will suffer the same abuses that they witness other believers suffer at the hands of the Chinese authorities’ increasingly aggressive atheism.

Interview with Archbishop Paul Gallangher on the agreement[edit]

"Vatican’s top diplomat defends China deal: ‘Something had to be done’" in Crux Now (7 October 2020)

  • We’re optimistic the Chinese authorities will wish to continue the dialogue with the Holy See within the agreed terms of the accord, and we move forward.
  • The fact we have managed to get all the bishops of China in communion with the Holy Father for the first time since the 1950s, and that the Chinese authorities allow the pope a modest say in the appointment of bishops but ultimately the final word, is quite remarkable.
  • It does mean that we have an opportunity to raise other issues with our Chinese counterparts. If we were to walk away from the dialogue completely, we wouldn’t have any opportunity for that. We don’t have a diplomatic mission in Beijing. We have representation in Hong Kong, but that’s very much at a church level, there’s no political exchanges, so we would be left with nothing at all.

External links[edit]