A Vatican bishop has defended the Chinese government’s record on organ harvesting.

In a letter seen by the Catholic Herald, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo said it was “myopic” to criticise the Holy See’s engagement with China, and that the Chinese government has “accomplished the reform of the organ donation system”.

Bishop Sorondo, the head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PAS), said last month: “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”

Bishop Sorondo’s comments come in his response to a letter from the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China. The letter cast doubt on China’s claimed reforms, pointing out that the registries of organ donation are not open to the public. The letter-writers also expressed dismay at the Vatican’s decision to invite Wang Haibo, head of China’s organ distribution system, to a conference last month.

China says it no longer extracted organs from prisoners. But human rights groups and academics have claimed that the procedure – in which victims are strapped to tables and cut open – is still widespread.

In response, Bishop Sorondo affirmed the Vatican’s commitment to human rights, and said that criticising Chinese attempts at reform could backfire.

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