Vacations are – or certainly should be! – wonderful times for rest, recharging physical and mental batteries, spending quality time with family and friends, enjoying new places and sights and broadening our horizons as well. Hopefully the only negative side to a vacation is when it ends!
I am back from quality time spent in three of my favorite places – Chicago, San Diego and Honolulu – with very beautiful, special people I am privileged to call family and friends. Memories and photos of these three cities, each of which is home to me in some way, will sustain me until I again board a plane for destinations known and unknown. I arrived yesterday morning after 24 hours of travel involving five airports, four flights and 12 time zones!
As I was in the air on the westbound portion of my trip, the news broke about the letter from Archbishop Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, that accused Pope Francis and a number of senior prelates of, among other things, covering up former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual abuse of seminarians and priests.
As I was in the air on my way back to Rome, the news broke on Saturday, September 22, of a provisional agreement signed in Beijing between China and the Holy See.
As you know, if you follow these pages, I have been to both mainland China and to Taiwan. In 1995, I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the United Nations conference in Beijing on Women. Six years later I spent 12 days in Taiwan.
I have been interested in and followed Holy See-China news for years but was taken aback when the provisional agreement was announced Saturday, notwithstanding news of an “imminent” accord between the two.
Today, I present the official news stories from the Vatican about the Agreement, an assessment by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, words from Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke, and a briefing note on the Church in China, including the fact that the Pope established the Diocese of Chengde in China (but he did not name a bishop as he traditionally does when he establishes a diocese or archdiocese).
We have no idea what the Agreement actually says, just a summary is offered. The Agreement is called “provisional” and thus suggests that either or both sides can change it or withdraw from it at will. We read that the Agreement is “on the appointment of Bishops” but have no idea what that means.
Cardinal Parolin says, “And today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter.” And yet that is not what we read and hear in reaction from Chinese Catholics faithful to Rome in China.
The cardinal also says: “What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities.”
I presume that when he speaks of “good Pastors,” the cardinal is referring to Bishops. I say “presume” because it has always been my understanding that the Pope appoints Bishops –he does not recognize them.
To be clear on this last point, I must note that, when an Eastern Catholic Church such as the Maronites, Chaldeans, Melkites, etc. holds a synod and selects a new bishop for a diocese, they send that name to Rome, to the Pope who then gives his assent to the canonically undertaken election. For example, in May 2010, Pope Benedict consented to the election of Fr. Bashar Warda as archbishop of Erbil by the Synod of the Chaldean bishops.
We also learn that Pope has lifted the excommunication of the government-appointed bishops of the Patriotic Church who were ordained as bishops without the required papal mandate.
So much has yet to be understood – to be explained by the Vatican – about this Agreement. I will look at the other side of the coin tomorrow.
PROVISIONAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN HOLY SEE AND CHINA
Today in Beijing, a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops was signed by the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, in the hope that it will contribute positively to the life of the Church in China, the good of the Chinese people and peace in the world.
Communiqué concerning the signing of a Provisional Agreement
between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China
on the appointment of Bishops
Today, 22nd September 2018, within the framework of the contacts between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China that have been underway for some time in order to discuss Church matters of common interest and to promote further understanding, a meeting was held in Beijing between Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and H.E. Mr Wang Chao, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, respectively heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations.
During that meeting, the two representatives signed a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops.
The above-mentioned Provisional Agreement, which is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application. It concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level.
The shared hope is that this agreement may favour a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.
POPE ENTRUSTS COMMITMENT TO RECONCILIATION TO CHINESE CATHOLICS
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, clarifies the objective of the Holy See regarding the Provisional Agreement with the People’s Republic of China concerning the appointment of Bishops.
Statement by Card. Parolin on the signing of the Provisional Agreement
between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China
concerning the nomination of Bishops
The signing of a Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China concerning the appointment of Bishops is of great importance, especially for the life of the Church in China, for the dialogue between the Holy See and the Authorities of that country and for the promotion of a horizon of peace in this present time in which we experience so many tensions at the international level.
The objective of the Holy See is a pastoral one: the Holy See intends just to create the condition, or help to create the condition, of a greater freedom, autonomy and organization, in order that the Catholic Church can dedicate itself to the mission of announcing the Gospel and also to contribute to the well-being and to the spiritual and material prosperity and harmony of the country, of every person and of the world as a whole.
And today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter. And Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People. What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities. And we believe – we hope, we hope – that the Agreement will be an instrument for these objectives, for these aims, with the cooperation of all.
To the Catholic Community in China – the Bishops, priests, religious and faithful – the Pope entrusts, above all, the commitment to make concrete fraternal gestures of reconciliation among themselves, and so to overcome past misunderstandings, past tensions, even the recent ones. In this way they can really contribute, and they will be able to perform the duty of the Church which is the announcement of the Gospel and, at the same time, to contribute to the growth, the spiritual and material growth, of their country and to peace and reconciliation in the world.
Click here for full video of Parolin statement in English: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-09/pope-commitment-reconciliation-chinese-catholics.html#play
GREG BURKE: HOLY SEE/CHINA AGREEMENT HAS PASTORAL OBJECTIVE
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, gives the following statement regarding the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops signed Saturday between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.
“This is not the end of a process. It’s the beginning. This has been about dialogue, patient listening on both sides even when people come from very different standpoints.
The objective of the accord is not political but pastoral, allowing the faithful to have bishops who are in communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.”
BRIEFING NOTE ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA
With a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China, the Holy Father Pope Francis has decided to readmit to full ecclesial communion the remaining “official” Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate: H.E. Mgr Joseph Guo Jincai, H.E. Mgr Joseph Huang Bingzhang, H.E. Mgr Paul Lei Shiyin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Liu Xinhong, H.E. Mgr Joseph Ma Yinglin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Yue Fusheng, H.E. Mgr Vincent Zhan Silu and H.E. Mgr Anthony Tu Shihua, OFM (who, before his death on 4th January 2017, had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See).
Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.
The Catholic Community in China is called to live a more fraternal collaboration, in order to promote with renewed commitment the proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, the Church exists to give witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and salvific love of the Father.
Pope establishes Diocese of Chengde in China
In the context of the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops signed by the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, Pope Francis decides to establish the Diocese of Chengde in China.
The Diocese of Chengde
Desiring to promote the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend with greater efficacy to its spiritual good, the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis has decided to constitute in China the Diocese of Chengde, which will be suffragan to the See of Beijing, with the church of Jesus the Good Shepherd, situated in the Administrative Division of Shuangluan, “Chengde City”, as its Cathedral.
A significant part of the territory of the new Diocese belonged historically to the Apostolic Vicariate of Eastern Mongolia, erected on the 21st December 1883 and elevated to the Diocese of Jehol/Jinzhou with the Bull Quotidie Nos of Pope Pius XII on the 11th April 1946.
The new ecclesiastical circumscription is found in the province of Hebei. Its territory is defined by the current civil boundaries of “Chengde City” and thus includes eight rural Districts (Chengde, Xinglong, Pingquan, Luanping, Longhua, Fengning, Kuancheng and Weichang) and three Administrative Divisions (Shuangqiao, Shuangluan and Yingshouyingzikuang).
As a result, the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Dioceses of Jehol/Jinzhou and of Chifeng are being modified, in that a portion of the territory of each now becomes part of the new Diocese of Chengde. This latter has an area of 39,519 km2 with a population of about 3.7 million inhabitants, of whom, according to recent estimates, about 25,000 are Catholics, living in 12 parishes and served by 7 priests, a dozen religious women and some seminarians.