The Vatican is preparing to re-engage in official dialogue with China for the first time in several years, possibly within the year, according to some sources.
These sources, cited by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, say the Vatican is waiting for confirmation from Beijing as to time and location.
The Vatican has made no official comment as to when or even if preparations are being made for talks with China.
The Vatican-China relationship has felt increasing strain in recent years, with Beijing choosing bishops for ordination without the Church’s approval.
“My understanding is that China is hoping to establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican, and most people in the Vatican share this view too,” said Bishop John Fang Xingyao, chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the organization that oversees China’s official Catholic church, which the Holy See does not recognize.
Many Catholics loyal to Rome worship in underground churches, not recognized or approved by Chinese authorities.
The Vatican has stressed that the question of ordination must first be addressed before diplomatic ties can be established.
Pope Francis has not made any public announcement with regard to China, but he has been in contact with the Chinese people, sending them messages ahead of prayers dedicated to Chinese Catholics in May, both this year and last.
The Pope also exchanged congratulatory messages with President Xi Jinping following each other’s appointment last year.
One source, according to the SCMP, said: “Since the Pope’s election, everybody is watching how he is going to engage with China … whether he is going to take a stronger approach, or if he is going to make a compromise.”
There has been cause for concern in recent months, however. Last month, more than 60 Catholic and Protestant Churches were demolished in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. There has also been the recent election of Joseph Tang Yuenge as bishop of the Chengdu diocese, which is still awaiting approval from the Vatican.