A secretive 2018 agreement between Beijing and the Vatican was renewed Thursday, despite strident US condemnation and warnings from underground Chinese priests loyal to Rome that they have only become more marginalized since it was signed.
The deal allows both Beijing and the Holy See a say in appointing bishops in an attempt to close a schism in China’s 12-million-strong Catholic community.
Washington had put intense pressure on the Vatican to scrap the agreement, saying it has failed to shield Chinese Catholics from persecution.
“After friendly consultations,” both sides agreed to the extension “for two years”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Thursday.
“The two sides will maintain close communication and consultation, and continue to push forward the process of improving relations.”
Those that operate without the Communist Party’s blessing claim to have been targeted by authorities in recent years, pointing to the demolition of underground churches, persecution of members and pressure on their clergy to switch sides.