Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, has acknowledged that the former head of state of the Vatican, Benedict XVI, sought to materialize an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to regulate Catholicism in that country, despite the long history of the CCP’s violating human rights while suppressing religious communities.

During a speech in Milan last Saturday that sought to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Catholic missionaries to China, Parolin said: “Benedict XVI approved the draft agreement on the nomination of bishops in China that only in 2018, was it possible to sign,” according to the Associated Press.

The cardinal added that since Pius XII, until Francis, all the supreme pontiffs have sought approaches with China after the communists came to power and expelled the foreign missionaries.

So far Pope Francis has managed to establish a controversial pact with Beijing that has earned him numerous criticisms both within and outside the Catholic Church due to the intense persecution the CCP has inflicted on priests, bishops, and Catholic faithful who follow the Vatican.

By 1957, the Bureau of Religious Affairs of China established that the faithful were obliged to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, an organization created to control their activities and thus allow the expression of their faith.

Since then, it is the CCP that designates the “official” Catholic bishops in China, not the Vatican. Decades ago Pope Pius XII pronounced himself against the measures imposed by the CCP for the expression of the faith: 

“This Patriotic Association intends that Catholics progressively adhere to the falsehoods of atheistic materialism, with which they deny God and reject all supernatural principles,” he wrote in a letter.

In Sept. 2018, the Vatican signed an agreement with the CCP whereby Chinese bishops are elected by the Pope from among the candidates proposed by the CCP in Beijing.

There are currently 138 dioceses led by 79 official bishops in China.

The Vatican secretary of state said, “There have been some results, but in order for the dialogue to have more consistent fruits, it’s necessary to continue.” 

According to Europa Press, Parolin assured that he has noticed signs of rapprochement between the Vatican and Chinese Catholics who for a long time have been divided on different issues.

The provisional agreement that the Holy See has signed with the CCP regarding the appointment of bishops is a “point of departure” that has given some results, the cardinal added.

The aforementioned media indicates that in 2007, Benedict XVI, citing his predecessor John Paul II, expressed that for the Holy See it was not a mystery that the Catholic Church sought a space for dialogue with China for the benefit of humanity in order to overcome the misunderstandings of the past.

The Vatican’s secretary of state announced last week the refusal of Pope Francis to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, arguing the process of general elections to be held in the United States in November.

Pompeo made clear U.S. objections to the agreement reached between the CCP and the Vatican and urged him to join the United States in denouncing China’s repression of religious and ethnic minorities, including Catholics, according to AP.