Vatican still trying to finalize provisional deal with Beijing

A historic meeting took place between representatives from China and the Vatican in Munich last Friday. Reuters reports that the meeting, which was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, “is believed to be the highest-level official encounter between the two sides in decades” and was previously considered “unthinkable.”

The meeting was initiated and approved by Pope Francis, according to the South China Morning Post, who “was ‘eager’ to use the talks to explore ‘renewal or formalization’ of a provisional deal reached in 2018 to allow the Vatican to appoint bishops pre-approved by Beijing.” That agreement is said to be expiring in August.

Pope Francis was apparently “delighted” with the meeting. A Vatican statement also said the two sides “had agreed to continue ‘institutional, bilateral dialogue’ aimed at benefiting both the Catholic Church and the Chinese people.”

While the Vatican is the only European sovereign state to formally recognize Taipei instead of Beijing, the meeting signals an improved relationship between the two parties since 2018.

In January this year, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén), wrote a letter to Pope Francis describing China’s aggression and persecution of religion as “obstacles to peace,” and detailing the Communist regime’s “abuses of power.”

—Alex Smith