Is China trying to gain leverage for upcoming negotiations with the Catholic Church?

Holy Hack

State-backed Chinese hackers allegedly targeted both the Vatican and the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong in a months-long attack.

The attacks, first spotted by the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, occurred as the Vatican and Chinese government prepare for a round of diplomatic negotiations, according to The Associated Press. China called the accusation "groundless speculation," but Recorded Future suggests that state-backed hacker group RedDelta attempted to give China a leg up in the upcoming talks.

Aggressive Negotiations

In September, the Vatican and Chinese government are slated to begin renegotiations of a 2018 diplomatic agreement about bishop appointments within the country, according to AP News. The deal is a key part of the two parties' relationship.

"The suspected intrusion into the Vatican would offer RedDelta insight into the negotiating position of the Holy See ahead of the deal’s September 2020 renewal," reads Recorded Futures' report.

Underground Catholicism

Catholicism has been a problem for the Chinese government: AP News reports that the country's 12 million Catholics are split in half between a Chinese-backed sect and an underground church that remains loyal to the Pope.

The 2018 deal — and the upcoming renewal — was an attempt to unite the two factions. The original agreement recognized the status of seven state-appointed bishops who hadn't been approved by the Vatican, smoothing over relations between the two.

READ MORE: Vatican allegedly hacked by China ahead of key talks [The Associated Press]

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