Published October 24, 2022
The Vatican announced on Saturday a two-year extension to its provisional agreement with Beijing governing Catholic affairs in China. On the same day, Hu Jintao, China’s former Communist Party general secretary (2002-12) and president (2003-13) and Xi Jinping’s immediate predecessor, was forcibly removed from the party’s National Congress. That body’s convention, which occurs every five years, marks a signature event in the nation’s political life. This year, it anointed Mr. Xi to an unprecedented third five-year term. Whether Mr. Hu’s very public exit was owing to age-related health issues or a brute display of Mr. Xi’s new power is unclear. But there’s a lesson in it for Rome either way.
The exact contents of the Vatican’s deal with Beijing, first signed in 2018, remain secret. Yet certain elements are known. The Vatican has recognized the formerly illicit bishops of China’s regime-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association. It has also agreed to the government’s role in the naming of new bishops. In return, Beijing has reportedly promised increased tolerance for China’s Catholics and legal protection for the unofficial “underground” church traditionally loyal to Rome.
Mr. Maier is a senior fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.