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Top cardinal says 'many questions' remain despite Vatican thaw with China

AFP  |  Beijing 

A top cardinal has said "many questions" remain despite the Vatican's diplomatic thaw with China, and that a deal paving the way to was "only a starting point".

Cardinal Pietro Parolin's remarks -- in an interview with China's state-run Global Times, published Monday -- follow the signing in September last year of a historic bilateral agreement on the thorny issue of the appointment of bishops.

That deal came after decades of mistrust between and the China's estimated 10 million Catholics are split between an underground church that swears allegiance only to the pope and a state-supervised body -- the

The September agreement allowed both sides to have a say on the appointment of bishops, and paved the way for a between the and Beijing, which broke diplomatic ties in 1951.

Parolin -- the Vatican's number two -- called the deal "a starting point" and that there were "elements which demonstrate an increased trust between the two sides".

"Many questions still need to be addressed and we are facing them with willingness and determination." The Vatican's deal with has divided Chinese Catholics.

Some see it as helpful in improving religious freedoms in But others are wary -- including Emeritus of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who accused the Holy See of "selling the Church" to Beijing's communist government.

"It's no surprise that there are critics, within the Church, in China, or elsewhere, with this opening that may seem unprecedented after such a long period of confrontation," said Parolin, a key in the negotiations with

The accord was forged despite a clampdown on religious worship in China, where churches were destroyed in some regions and several church-run kindergartens closed last year. Authorities have also cracked down on Bible sales.

China's officially atheist government has tightened its grip on all faiths in recent years, and measures have included requiring clergymen to undergo ideological training, according to

Parolin said this push for the "Sinicization" of religion was not at odds with the as the Chinese leadership has reiterated its "willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion".

and the Vatican, he said, "have to journey together, because only in this way will we be able to heal the wounds and misunderstandings of the past".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 13 2019. 18:31 IST