The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), an official body that governs the Catholics in China, said it hopes to receive the Vatican's reply by the start of next year to its proposals in this regard, official media reported here on Friday.

"The Vatican seems to hope for more agreements beyond bishop ordination, such as cancelling the CCPA. But that doesn't appear likely," state-run media said.     

The CCPA's authority has always been controversial between the two sides.
    
Till now, China insisted that it has the sole authority to appoint Bishops while the Vatican's stand is that bishops can only be appointed by the Pope.
    
After Buddhism, Christianity was believed to be the fastest growing religion in China.

Though China is governed by the atheist Communist Party, it does not discriminate against religion as a state policy it is very apprehensive about the role of Church considering the catalyst role played by the Vatican in transformation of socialist countries like Poland.

The relations between Vatican and China strained over differences on administering Churches and appointments of Bishops. But the ties were on the mend since new government headed by President Xi Jinping took over last year.     

In August, China permitted Pope Francis for the first time in recent years to fly over its air space when he visited South Korea, saying it hopes to conduct constructive dialogue with the Vatican and improve relations strained over differences on administering Churches.

Pope Francis sent a message to Jinping, saying, "Upon entering Chinese air space, I extend best wishes to your Excellency and your fellow citizens and I invoke the divine blessing of peace and well-being upon the nation".     

According to recent studies, China has over 52 million Christians, a majority of them Protestants many of them practices their religion in Home Churches due to lack of access to the main Cathedrals whose number was stated to be around 56,000.

China severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican in the 1950s and bishop ordination.

As per the new proposals, future bishop candidates in China may be selected in each parish and reported to the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), which will contact the Vatican for consecration if consensus could be reached between the two sides, the report said.
    
While the Vatican recognises most of the members of the BCCCC as bishops, it does not accept the body's validity.

Another plan involves two candidates from each parish and the BCCCC shall offer references when recommending candidates to the Vatican, who will then consecrate the bishop.

Commenting on China's new proposals to mend ties with Vatican Shen Guiping, a religious studies expert at the Central Institute of Socialism, said that China would not dismiss the CCPA as wanted by Vatican.

But the role of the CCPA may be changed in order to better serve Catholics in China, he said.

"For example, the CCPA may strengthen its role as an independent group to bridge the gap between authorities and church members," he told the report.
    
"The CCPA is a result of Catholic development in China and a historic legacy. Removing the CCPA should not be made a prerequisite to establishing diplomatic ties," Yan Kejia, the director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said.

"China has demonstrated great restraint and sincerity in considering the Vatican's side," the report quoted officials as saying.
    
Several bishop candidates in Shanxi, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces were selected but yet to be consecrated.     

"The agreement could be seen as a positive step towards normalising diplomatic ties, but prudence is required instead of jumping to a conclusion on diplomatic relations," Yan noted.

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