The Vatican has vehemently defended the agreement in recent weeks, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly criticized it and asked the Holy See not to renew it. Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters thursday at a daily briefing that China and the Vatican had decided to extend the agreement «after friendly consultations.» Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said: «After friendly negotiations, China and the Vatican have decided to extend the temporary agreement on the appointment of bishops by two years. The agreement is «exclusively the issue of the appointments of bishops» and does not address other matters «that still concern the Church.» On September 17, 2020, foreign policy journalist Benedict Rogers revealed that China was no longer imposing the terms of the 2018 agreement, which was only valid for two years.  Father Bernardo Cervellera, editor-in-chief of the missionary news agency AsiaNews, which extensively covers the Church in China, noted that in the two years following the signing of the agreement, the persecution of Christians by the Chinese authorities has only increased, destroying churches, incarcerating priests and excluding young people from cults. He explained that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council «on the special role of the Pope in the Episcopal College and in the appointment of the bishops themselves had inspired the negotiations» and was «a point of reference in the drafting of the text of the Agreement.» He reminded his audience that after decades of negotiations, the agreement is not just «a point of arrival»; it is above all «a starting point» for the Church in China and Sino-Vatican relations. Speech delivered in Milan for the 150th anniversary of life. For the anniversary of the arrival of the first P.I.M.E. (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) missionaries in Henan, in China, Cardinal Parolin, Cardinal Parolin noted that «misunderstandings» emerged about the agreement «because extramarital objectives or unrelated events concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China have been attributed to the agreement and is even linked to political issues that have nothing to do with the agreement itself, which «concerns exclusively the appointment of bishops.» In an article published in L`Osservatore Romano on the day of the announcement of the extension, the «priority objective» of the agreement on the appointment of bishops in China is to «maintain and promote the proclamation of the Gospel in this country and to restore the full and visible unity of the Church.» He added that «the main motivations» that guide the Holy See in its dialogue with the Chinese authorities «are fundamentally ecclesiological and pastoral,» because the issue of the appointment of bishops «is essential for the life of the Church, both locally and universally.» The communication stated that two bishops, Monsignor Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, an autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, and Bishop Stefano Xu Hongwei of Hanzhong, in the central province of Shaanxi, had been appointed in accordance with the agreement. Other ordinations are under way, he said, although the pandemic has slowed things down. The Vatican has repeatedly said that the agreement with China only deals with pastoral issues. VATICAN CITY(BEIJING) – The Vatican and China on Thursday renewed an agreement on the appointment of bishops in China, and the Vatican vowed to push the communist government to strengthen religious freedom. Two years later, the results of the agreement were not «particularly bright,» Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican`s secretary of state, said in September.