A cable from U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney in March 2006 noted that Archbishop Claudio Celli, who was at that time the Holy See's principal China negotiator, insisted that McCarrick was not in a position to negotiate with China and that his visits to China were "unofficial."
There appears to be a gap between McCarrick's trips to China between 2006 and 2013, though McCarrick's influence was still active.
In 2009, the archbishop had a message relayed to a friend in China through Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi conveyed McCarrick's greetings to Bishop Aloysius Jin of Shanghai, formerly a leading Chinese Jesuit.
"She [Pelosi] relayed Cardinal McCarrick's good wishes to Bishop Jin. Bishop Jin said he and Cardinal McCarrick had exchanged visits, beginning when the latter was Bishop of Newark," the State Department cable reads.
During McCarrick's time as Archbishop of Newark, Aloysius Jin Luxian was not recognized as a bishop by the Vatican. He was ordained a coadjutor bishop of Shanghai without papal approval in 1985, his position was not recognized by the Vatican until 2004. Bishop Jin died in 2013.
A 2007 article in The Atlantic described the close friendship between McCarrick and Jin, and how McCarrick claimed to have relayed messages from the Chinese government-appointed bishop to the pope in the 1990s.
Both the State Department and Chinese media recorded a 1998 visit to China by Archbishop McCarrick. On that trip he was one of three American clerics to visit China to discuss religious freedom, meeting with Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party's Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress.
Fu was made a bishop by Beijing 1979 without approval of the pope.
Chinese media reported that McCarrick paid a visit to the National Seminary in Beijing in 1998.
In Aug. 2, 2003, the South China Morning Post reported that McCarrick "spent three days in Beijing earlier this week on what was ostensibly a private visit."
McCarrick was "the first cardinal from a western country to visit the mainland since relations between China and the Vatican turned frosty after a dispute over canonisation in October 2000," the article continued.
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In a Dec. 2003 State Department cable, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson wrote that Vatican Office Director for China Monsignor Gianfranco Rota-Graziosi "did not expect concrete improvement stemming from the informal trip last summer of Washington Cardinal McCarrick to China."
On Sept. 14, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Holy See could be about to enter a deal with China which would include the recognition of seven illicitly consecrated bishops serving in the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association - a state-sponsored form of Catholicism whose leaders are chosen by Communist authorities.
Reports of the Holy See and Chinese government working towards a formal agreement on the appointment of bishops have been circulating since January, 2018. At the same time, China has launched an increasing crackdown on religious practice in the country, demolishing churches and harassing worshippers.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.