historic meeting between foreign ministers

Beijing (hooly News) – A historic moment: Foreign ministers from China and the Vatican met, a first in seven decades and a new sign of rapprochement since the 2018 agreement on the appointment of bishops.

The two states no longer maintain diplomatic relations since 1951, mainly due to religious disputes, Beijing being wary of any foreign religious influence on its territory.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart Bishop Paul Gallagher held talks on Friday in Munich, Germany, on the sidelines of the Security Conference, the People's Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said on Saturday. in power.

Diplomats and representatives of the two states had already met. But a public interview at this level, during an international event, is unprecedented.

"Today is the first meeting between foreign ministers from China and the Vatican," said Wang Yi, according to the report published by the People's Daily on its website.

"This will open up more space for future exchanges between our two parties," he said before Bishop Paul Gallagher, whose official title is secretary responsible for relations with the states.

– "Positive results" –

The CCP is wary of any organization, especially a religious one, that could threaten its authority over China. He thus long distrusted the potential political influence of the Pope on social stability in the country.

China has 10 to 12 million Catholics, out of a total population of 1.4 billion.

These believers are divided between an official Church (whose clergy is subject to the authorities) and a clandestine Church, drawing its legitimacy from obedience to the Pope and whose members are sometimes the object of persecutions and arrests.

In practice, this divide between Catholics has narrowed since the signing in 2018 of a historic Beijing-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops, which has helped to warm bilateral relations.

This "provisional" text gives the two parties a right of scrutiny. Pope Francis recognized Chinese bishops who had been appointed by Beijing without his approval; the Chinese government did the same in the other direction.

The agreement allowed "to obtain positive results", welcomed Wang Yi in front of his Vatican counterpart on Friday, according to the People's Daily.

– Blockages –

"China is ready to further enhance understanding and mutual trust with the Vatican, so that the momentum of positive interaction between the two sides continues to grow," he said.

On the side of the Holy See, the secretary of state welcomed in a press release a meeting held "in a cordial climate". The two men reiterated "the will to continue the institutional dialogue at the bilateral level to promote the life of the Church and the good of the Chinese people".

Pope Francis does not hide his desire to strengthen the relationship with Beijing. But the reestablishment of official ties between the two states remains complicated to materialize.

Particularly because the Vatican continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. A deadlock, because this island populated by 23 million inhabitants is considered by Beijing as a Chinese province awaiting reunification.

China-Vatican rapprochement also divides within the Church. While some see it as a useful dialogue to improve the situation of Chinese believers, others are wary of a CCP which regularly calls to "sinise" religions.