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Vatican and China could sign deal on bishops ‘after March’

Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing celebrates Mass in 2016 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (CNS photo/Wu Hong, EPA)

The Holy See and China are ready to sign an agreement on bishops after the end of March, an Italian newspaper has reported.

Corriere della Serra quotes a Vatican representative as saying “as far as we are concerned, the decision is made”.

“From the end of March onwards every day is good to sign the agreement with the Chinese authorities on the procedure for appointing Catholic bishops,” the source added.

The paper also says that analysts have been informing the US State Department that a deal between the Vatican and Beijing is imminent, hoping that a quick deal will avert schism between the government-backed Chinese Church and the “underground” Church loyal to Rome.

The United States is concerned that China could increase its geopolitical weight if the Holy See gives legitimacy to its communist regime.

Taiwan is particularly worried that the Vatican could downgrade formal diplomatic relations in any such deal. The island’s foreign affairs ministry said it was closely following talks between Beijing and the Holy See, which is the only European power that still formally recognises its government.