BEIJING, October 22 (Reuters): China and the Vatican have decided to extend a deal on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China by another two years, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The accord gives the pope the final say over the appointment of Chinese bishops, and the Chinese government allows all of them, including those hailing from a state-backed Church, to recognise the pope's authority. Signed two years ago, it expired on Thursday.
The U.S. State Department and conservative Catholics say the Vatican has sold out to the communist government by agreeing the deal.
Many believe it will eventually lead to diplomatic relations with Beijing, meaning that the Vatican would have to sever ties with Taiwan.
The Vatican Secretary of State said Wednesday that talk of diplomatic relations was premature.
"The two sides will continue to keep in close communication and consultation, and continue to push forward the process of improving relations," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press briefing.