The ordination last week of two Chinese bishops, Joseph Tang Yuange in Sichuan province and John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun in Shanxi province, both approved by the Vatican, appears to confirm reports that China and the Vatican are close to an agreement on the crucial issue of how bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are to be chosen.

Since the early days of the People's Republic of China, the Communist Party has pressed the Catholic Church not to "interfere" in China's internal affairs while the Vatican has insisted that the appointment of bishops is a matter for the church.

In 1957, the Communist Party created the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association to control the nation's Catholics. Since then, the Vatican has worried about a schismatic church in China. Schism recently has been on the mind of Pope Francis. In late October, he began a yearlong series of events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther in 1517.