The Holy See’s Secretary of State for Relations with States – the Vatican’s foreign minister – Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher says the 2018 provisional agreement with China advanced something that was always going to be “a long, difficult, and often at times uncertain process,” and sees no “strong grounds to say now that we should walk away from it.”
Archbishop Gallagher was speaking to Crux, which published the first of a three-part interview with him on Tuesday.
The Vatican’s foreign minister admits there are “kinks to iron out” in the provisional agreement, which he confirms the Vatican has asked to see extended for another two-year trial period, but has yet to receive and answer from China. If the Chinese do not respond by the end of this month – october – the deal expires.
Archbishop Gallagher touted two significant gains the arrangement has produced already: “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.”
Nevertheless, “We’re not blowing it up beyond what it is,” Archbishop Gallagher also says in the interview – the first part of which is available here – and likens that to “getting one’s toe in the door”.
The Holy See has faced sustained criticism from various quarters, including the United States, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking the extraordinary step of publishing an op/ed critical of the Vatican’s China policy, shortly before coming to Rome for a public conference at which he appeared with Archbishop Gallagher to urge the Vatican and other religious figures to exercise greater moral leadership in defence of religious liberty.
“I can understand the criticism,” Archbishop Gallagher says. “We think it’s worth accepting the criticism.”