Vatican City, Nov 2, 2016 / 23:01 pm
Amid reports of a possible agreement concerning the appointment of Chinese bishops, it is useful to look at the Church's relations with Vietnam as a possible model for the development of relations between China and the Holy See.
The agreement will likely be based on Cardinal Pietro Parolin's model implemented in Vietnam back in 1996: the Holy See proposes a set of three bishops to the Hanoi government, and Hanoi makes its choice.
This way has some problems: the Vietnam administration often delays its approval, leaving dioceses vacant for years. Then, when they make the choice, they usually prefer a pro-government candidate.
Cardinal Parolin, the Holy See's Secretary of State, told nuncios gathered in Rome Sept. 16-18 that the talks with China deal with the appointment of bishops, and do not deal with any possibility of establishing diplomatic ties.
His remarks are the signal that the Holy See is putting into action a step by step approach in relations with China.
Holy See policy with China has become a major focus of discussion.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has criticized the possible agreement about the appointment of bishops. He has remarked in an open letter in August, and in other interventions, that the agreement would change nothing in terms of religious freedom in China. For him, that is the main problem.