The Holy See and Beijing government jointly announced a two-year extension to the 2018 agreement, which expired Thursday. The Vatican defended the extension by saying the agreement was purely ecclesiastic and pastoral in nature, and not political.
The agreement, which hasn’t ever been published, envisages a process of dialogue in selecting bishops. The Vatican signed it in 2018 in hopes it would help unite China’s Catholics, who for seven decades have been split between those belonging to an official, state-sanctioned church and an underground church loyal to Rome.
The Vatican has defended the 2018 accord against criticism that Pope Francis sold out the underground faithful, saying the deal was necessary to prevent an even worse schism in the Chinese church after Beijing named bishops without the pope’s consent.