Vatican wants to open Beijing office and meet with Chinese Premier

Published (HKT): 2020.09.16 21:30

The Vatican wants to open a Beijing office with a permanent representative and also set up a meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a Catholid periodical reported on Tuesday.

An office in Beijing would facilitate communications between the Holy See and the local church. The arrangement would be similar to the one that the Vatican has in Vietnam, but China has so far refused the proposal, according to America Magazine.

The Vatican intended to renew its provisional agreement with China, Parolin told journalists on Monday. The 2018 agreement covers the appointment of bishops in the country, but details have never been made public.

Since the agreement was signed, the Chinese embassy to Italy has served as a channel for ongoing communication, according to America Magazine.

Officials from the Vatican and China meet once or twice annually at the deputy-foreign minister level. The next meeting, set to be in Rome, was expected to formalize the agreement’s extension, but it has been postponed with no rescheduled date set to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Beijing broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951, after which the Vatican established ties with Taiwan. The Vatican would have to sever its diplomatic ties with the self-ruled island if it wanted a meeting to occur between Li and Parolin, America Magazine reported.

Neither the potential office in Beijing nor the top-level meeting had been broached so far in bilateral negotiations, according to Vatican sources cited by America.

Pope Francis had expressed his wish to visit China several times but had been turned down by China. A meeting in February 2019 between the Vatican’s Archbishop Paul Gallagher and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Munich was a major step forward, but a higher level meeting has yet to be arranged.

Meanwhile, the Vatican has assured Taiwan repeatedly that the bishop appointment agreement with China is a religious rather than a diplomatic matter, said Joanne Ou, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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