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Beijing paper praises Pope Francis’s ‘wisdom’ on Chinese bishops

Chinese President Xi Jinping pictured in Beijing, China, a few weeks ago. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The Vatican and Beijing will re-establish diplomatic ties “sooner or later” thanks to the “wisdom” of Pope Francis, a Chinese government-run newspaper has said.

The Global Times said in an editorial that the Pope had made “substantive concessions” to the Chinese government. Relations are therefore taking a “clearer shape” despite the opposition of “Western media and certain radical religious groups opposed to enhanced Sino-Vatican ties”.

The column comes after an unnamed senior Vatican source told Reuters that the Holy See and China were close to signing a deal on the appointment of bishops.

Catholics in the country are currently split between those in the ‘underground’ Church who are loyal to Rome, and those in the government-backed Patriotic Catholic Association, which appoints bishops without Vatican approval.

The deal will likely involve Rome lifting excommunications on several government-appointed bishops in exchange for having a say in future episcopal appointments in the country.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Bishop of Hong Kong, accused the Vatican of “selling out” loyal Catholics after it emerged that a Holy See delegation asked two ‘underground’ bishops to move aside in favour of excommunicated Communist-backed prelates.

The Global Times editorial is the first sign from Beijing that a deal is close. “We believe Beijing’s diplomats can manage the negotiations well, taking account of the national interest and the religious beliefs of Catholics,” it says.

The paper also hinted that the Vatican may drop diplomatic relations with Taiwan as part of the deal. The island is the last remaining territory under the governance of the Republic of China, which was ousted from the mainland by the Communists in 1950.

“Pope Francis has a positive image with the Chinese public,” the editorial concludes. “It is expected he will push China-Vatican ties forward and solve related problems with his wisdom.”