Pope Francis and authorities in China could be in the last stages to strike a deal between the Roman Catholic Church and China.
Reports suggest the pontiff wants to reach a deal next month, before the close of the Holy Year of Mercy on 20th November.
For decades the Communist Party in China has disputed bishops appointed by the Vatican, instead approving its own bishops who do not have official Church approval.
Catholic bishops, known as 'underground' leaders, face arrest and imprisonment in the country.
Some have criticised the Vatican's desire to ordain its own bishops in China, saying the religious institution is overlooking human rights abuses in the country.
Over the past year Chinese authorities have cracked down on Christian activities including worship and have undertaken a tough policy on cross removal from public buildings, for what it calls health and safety reasons.
The Guardian has reported that Belgian priest Jeroom Heyndrickx has been leading the negotiations.
He said: "There have been some efforts at dialogue in the past, but never so intensive and ongoing and with perseverance on both sides.
"The situation is more hopeful now than it has been in 65 years."
A Monthly Gift Of $11 Makes A World Of Difference
In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.
Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the USA is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.
For a monthly gift of $11 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.
Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.