Pope Francis says Vatican-China deal involves joint commission to pick bishops

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The Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party maintain a joint commission to pick China's bishops, Pope Francis told reporters on Monday while returning to Rome from a trip to Mongolia.

The pope revealed the existence of the commission for the first time Monday, providing a window into the Holy See's dealings with the Chinese government some five years after the Vatican struck a historic deal with the Chinese government to appoint bishops in the country. The deal was seen as a major step toward the toleration of the Catholic Church in China, but it was blasted by critics who said the Vatican had capitulated to the Chinese Communist Party.

During the pope's in-flight press conference, he also told reporters that he has"great admiration for Chinese culture" and that relations between the Vatican and China are"very respectful." “I think that we need to advance further into the religious aspect to understand each other more," the pope said."The Chinese must not think that the Church does not accept their culture and their values and that the Church is dependent on a foreign power."

Francis's visit to Mongolia was the first by a pope and raised questions about the Vatican's relationship with China and the underground Catholic Church. Pope Francis has not visited China, which is home to an estimated 12 million Catholics, many of whom are a part of the underground church. Mongolia, meanwhile, has a very small Catholic population of some 1,500 people in a country of 3.3 million.

“I spoke about Great Russia not so much in geographic terms, more of its great culture throughout history,” the pope said, according to the New York Times. He had invoked the history of Catherine the Great and other historic Russian leaders in his prior comments.

 

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