A Vatican source says the deal would give the Holy See input on the appointment of future bishops

An accord between the Vatican and China’s Communist government could be signed within the next few months.

Reuters reports that an unnamed “senior Vatican source” said the deal would allow the Holy See to have a say on the appointment of future Chinese bishops.

“It is not great agreement,” the source said, “But we don’t know what the situation will be like in 10 or 20 years. It could even be worse.”

“Afterwards we will still be like a bird in a cage but the cage will be bigger,” he added. “It is not easy. Suffering will continue. We will have to fight for every centimetre to increase the size of the cage.”

Catholics in China are divided between those in the “underground” community who recognise the Pope, and those who belong to the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, whose bishops are appointed by the government.

The source rejected accusations from Cardinal Joseph Zen that the Vatican is willing to “sell out” Chinese Catholics and suggestions of a rift between Pope Francis and his collaborators in China.

He also said the Pope supported an offer made to two “underground” bishops to make way for government-appointed prelates, and that five government-appointed bishops had already been made valid in the eyes of the Church.

Cardinal Zen strongly criticised the Vatican’s attempt at rapprochement with Beijing last week, writing: “So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all they are doing in recent years and months”.

The Vatican responded with a strongly worded statement, accusing “people in the Church” of “fostering confusion and controversy”.