At the time, both sides said it was the starting point for in-depth talks, and the Vatican praised him for leading to a rapprochement between the official churches in China and the Holy See. In China, churches for various Christian denominations, including Roman Catholicism, are sanctioned by the Chinese government, which appoints or approves spiritual or underground leaders. The underground Catholic churches have been loyal to the Vatican and are under the supervision of bishops secretly appointed by the pope.
The 2018 agreement allegedly allowed Beijing to nominate candidates for bishop to official churches, but the pope was given the last word of appointment. This was seen as a move that followed the Pope̵7;s recognition of several bishops appointed by Chinese officials. The Vatican expelled these bishops.
Critics of the agreement have condemned the Vatican for negotiating with an authoritarian government and giving Beijing more legitimacy, giving it a potentially greater impact on the religious lives of 10 to 12 million Chinese Catholics. Some prominent American politicians, such as Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, were among those urging the Vatican to refrain from negotiating with the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the government of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the party has tightened control over the national religious and spiritual life as part of Mr. Xi’s efforts to increase the party’s oversight of almost all aspects of society. Officials in southeast China have imposed particularly severe restrictions on Christianity. From 2014 to 2016, authorities in Zhejiang Province, where Xi Xi once served as party leader, ordered crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches to be destroyed, according to officials and residents.
The Vatican has had a close relationship with Beijing for many decades.
Two broken diplomatic ties in 1951 and the Vatican officially recognize Taiwan, a democratic island that has de facto independence from China. In recent years, Chinese officials have put increasing pressure on several governments around the world that recognize Taiwan to end these relations with some success. If the Vatican and Beijing tried to re-establish diplomatic ties, Chinese officials would almost certainly demand that the Vatican end relations with Taiwan.
Pope Francis set himself the goal of increasing the presence of the Church throughout the world. In China, Protestantism is growing much faster than Catholicism.
In 2014, the Chinese government allowed the pope’s plane to fly through Chinese airspace on its way to Seoul, South Korea, breaking with tradition. The Pope sends a radio telegram message to Mr. Xiho, offering good wishes and the blessings of peace. Speaking to bishops outside Seoul, the pope said: “In this spirit of openness to others, I sincerely hope that those countries on your continent with which the Holy See does not yet have a full relationship cannot hesitate to continue the dialogue for the benefit of all.”