>> This gothic church in Northern China was once the scene of a tense standoff between the ruling communist party and underground Catholics. In 1996, authorities surrounded the building and detained its bishop who had been ordained by the Vatican in defiance of Beijing's own church run by the state.
Years later, though its Bishop is still missing, this parish, like many others, maybe warming up to the Communist Party. It's a sign of a generational shift. After more than 70 years of divide between underground congregations and China's official church. Reuter's Christian Shepherd has been following the story.>> Catholic communities I spoke to in Hebei spoke about the increasing oversight from the communist party that is again to be accepted.
You'd think communities that are not officially recognized by Beijing, they are beginning to have closer relationships with the Chinese government and particularly in light of the deal with the Vatican that growing to accept that they may have to be subsumed by the Chinese Communist Party's system of oversight.
>> Last month, a secretive deal between Beijing and the Vatican moved to end their feud over who controls the church within Communist China. Key was a provisional agreement on the appointment of Chinese bishops, giving the Vatican a long-desired say in the process.>> It used to be that the underground church in China and the Beijing backed church were split very, very clearly and they would have a very antogonistic relationship.
But nowadays there are people who tend to sort of move between the two worlds. There'd be some priests who previously were considered underground, but then later would be willing to join the Patriotic Association, because they felt that it would allow them more freedom and allow their congregation more freedom.
Still critics say the deal is a sell out to the communist party and it's still not clear what it might mean for China's 30 or so underground bishops. But according to experts, the acceptance of government-backed bishops by the Holy See is already starting to blur lines. More bishops are now seen as both, Vatican and Beijing approved.