It was the Communist country's first formal recognition of the pope's authority within the Roman Catholic Church in the world's most populous nation, Vatican officials said.
Under the deal, Pope Francis recognized the legitimacy of seven bishops appointed by the Chinese government. Because they had not been selected by the Vatican, they had previously been excommunicated.
The agreement was in keeping with pope's outreach to parts of the world where he hopes to increase the church's presence and spread its message. It gives the church greater access to a huge population where the growth of Protestantism is far outpacing Catholicism.
But for critics loath to share any of the church's authority with an authoritarian government, the accord marked a shameful retreat and the setting of a dangerous precedent for future relations with other countries.