The Holy See has denied that a deal with Beijing is imminent, after a Chinese government-backed newspaper reported that an agreement could be signed this weekend.
Global Times quoted Bishop Guo Jincai, secretary-general of the Chinese bishops’ conference, as saying negotiations are in the “final stages”.
“If everything goes right, the deal could be signed as early as the end of this month,” the bishop said. “The timing depends on details of the deal or technical issues.”
However, the Vatican’s director of press, Greg Burke, said on Thursday that there was no “imminent” signing of an agreement.
“I would also like to underline that the Holy Father Francis remains in constant contact with his collaborators on the Chinese issues and accompanies the steps of the ongoing dialogue,” he added.
Global Times also quotes Wang Meixiu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who says there are still uncertainties.
“A deal on the general principles of bishop appointment will not come unless the two sides release a written document, or a separate deal about the Vatican’s acknowledgement of seven bishops backed by the Chinese government,” she said.
Those bishops include some who incurred excommunication after being ordained without Vatican approval.
The news comes just days after Chinese authorities detained a Vatican-backed bishop who had refused to concelebrate a Chrism Mass with an excommunicated government-backed bishop.
The police later released Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin after he agreed not to celebrate any more Masses in his capacity as a bishop.