POPE DELIVERS FINAL CATECHESIS ON THE “OUR FATHER” – POPE FRANCIS SENDS GREETINGS AND A BLESSING TO CHINESE CATHOLICS

POPE DELIVERS FINAL CATECHESIS ON THE “OUR FATHER”

In a (finally) sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience and began by noting, “Today we conclude our catechesis on the ‘Our Father’.”

He said, “Jesus has revealed to us that Christian prayer begins with the audacity to call God ‘Father’. Indeed, each of the expressions that our Lord himself uses in prayer brings to mind the text of the ‘Our Father’.

“Throughout the New Testament,” continued Francis, “it is clear that the first principle of every prayer is the Holy Spirit, who breathes into the hearts of the disciples. Herein lies the mystery of Christian prayer: that by grace we are drawn into the Holy Trinity’s dialogue of love. On the cross Jesus cries out: ‘My God, my God’, and we see here the fulcrum of his relationship with the Father. This also reflects the heart of our own trust and prayer.

The Holy Father said in conclusion, “At the end of this catechesis, let us repeat this prayer of Jesus: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children’.”

In the multi-lingual greetings that follow the audience catechesis and summaries in seven languages, Francis, through an English-speaking monsignor from the Secretariat of State, greeted the “English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Tanzania, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!”

In greetings to French pilgrims, Pope Francis spoke of a murdered missionary sister, whose body was found in the Central African Republic on the same day a missionary priest was killed in Mozambique. He called the Spanish missionary “a woman who has given her life for Jesus in the service of the poor.”

Sister Inés Nieves Sancho, 77, was found murdered near her home in the Central African Republic on Monday morning. Her body was found horribly mutilated at her workshop in the village of Nola, which is part of the Diocese of Berberati, according to the Osservatore Romano. At some point during the night between Sunday and Monday, unknown assailants entered Sister Inés’ home and forcibly took her to the workshop where she regularly held sewing lessons for local girls to help improve their lives. There her attackers decapitated her and mutilated her body.

There was a new language in the papal greetings today. Added to French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish and Italian, Francis greeted pilgrims in Ukrainian: “I cordially greet the Ukrainian pilgrims, especially the group of soldiers who participated in the annual National Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes. I continually pray to the Risen Lord, so that he fills the hearts of the Ukrainians with love and serenity and gives his peace to the whole country. God bless you all!”

After the general audience was over and Catholic prelates and several others lined up to meet the Pope, the Holy Father greeted Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. (source: vaticannews)

POPE FRANCIS SENDS GREETINGS AND A BLESSING TO CHINESE CATHOLICS

At the end of today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, in a reference to the upcoming feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, expressed his “special closeness and affection to all the Catholics in China who, among daily labors and trials, continue to believe, to hope, and to love.”

Speaking directly to the faithful in China, the Holy Father said, “May our Mother of Heaven help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, always remaining united in the communion of the universal Church.”

Francis then assured the Chinese faithful of his own prayers and his blessing, before leading the pilgrims at the audience in praying the Hail Mary for Chinese Catholics.

An image of Our Lady, Help of Christians, is found in the Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, and is an object of special devotion to the faithful in China.

In May of 2007, in his Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI asked that the May 24 feast of Mary, Help of Christians be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The following prayer, published in 2008, was composed by Pope Benedict for the occasion:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!
(source: vaticannews)

CARDINAL PAROLIN: “THE POPE SEES CHINA AS A GREAT COUNTRY”

CARDINAL PAROLIN: “THE POPE SEES CHINA AS A GREAT COUNTRY”

In an unprecedented interview with an English-language Chinese newspaper – the Global Times – a sub-publication of the People’s Daily, the Vatican Secretary of State talks of positive developments in diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, and of the mutual will to face and resolve problematic issues and questions.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

In a long Q&A conducted by an Italian correspondent for the Chinese publication, Parolin spoke of progress in the Provisional Agreement between China and the Holy See, he recalled some salient memories of his negotiations with Chinese representatives and he offered his perspective on China’s sinicization of religions, the process whereby non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture.

Inevitable criticism
Having reiterated the will, on both sides, to look for practical solutions which concern the lives of real people who desire to practice their faith peacefully and offer a positive contribution to their own country, the Cardinal noted that there should not be a surprise if there is criticism, which can arise either in the Church or in China or from elsewhere, of an opening which can appear unprecedented after such a long period of confrontation.

Indeed, Parolin added, “it seems to me human and Christian to show understanding, attention and respect for those who express such criticism.”

The Cardinal acknowledged that not all problems have been resolved, and said that many questions still need to be addressed, adding that we are facing them with “willingness and determination.”

Sinicization and Inculturation
Regarding China’s sinicization of religions, Parolin said “Inculturation is an essential condition for a sound proclamation of the Gospel which, in order to bear fruit, requires, on the one hand, safeguarding its authentic purity and integrity and, on the other, presenting it according to the particular experience of each people and culture.”

He said that, “in the future it will certainly be important to deepen this theme, especially the relationship between ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicization,’ keeping in mind how the Chinese leadership has been able to reiterate its willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion.”

Parolin went on to explain that, “These two terms, ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicization,’ refer to each other without confusion and without opposition: in some ways, they can be complementary and can open avenues for dialogue on the religious and cultural level.”

Personal memories
Regarding his own memories and experience in dealing with Chinese representatives for many years, the Vatican Secretary of State recalled numerous hiccups, concerns and fears that inevitably have arisen throughout the process, but said the will to move forward prevailed on both sides.

He said that particularly important in creating a favorable atmosphere during negotiations, were the many moments of familiarity and friendship that arose, allowing the parties “to share the humanity that unites us beyond the differences that exist between us.”

Pope Francis
Cardinal Parolin concluded with an appeal from the Pope to Chinese Catholics “to undertake with courage the path of unity, reconciliation and a renewed proclamation of the Gospel.”

“He sees China not only as a great country but also as a great culture, rich in history and wisdom,” he said, reiterating the Holy See’s hope that “China will not be afraid to enter into dialogue with the wider world.”

“In the words of Pope Francis,” he said, “we would say that only by being united can we overcome the globalization of indifference, working as creative artisans of peace and resolute promoters of fraternity.”

For full interview in the Global Times: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1149623.shtml

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOMBING OF VATICAN CITY STATE – POPE EXPRESSES SORROW FOR ATTACK ON COPTIC CHRISTIANS – POPE FRANCIS: ‘ A CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE AN ANTI-SEMITE’ – CHINA: FOUR UNDERGROUND PRIESTS DISAPPEAR IN POLICE CUSTODY

There’s been more disturbing news from China over the weekend as you will see in the story from AsiaNews. If you happen to be interested in the Catholic Church in Asia, and especially what’s happening in China, given the September accord between the Vatican and China on the naming of bishops, the site to visit is http://www.asianews.it/en.html

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOMBING OF VATICAN CITY STATE

It was five minutes after eight o’clock on the evening of November 5, 1943 when bombs rained down on Vatican City State.

The attack, perpetrated by an unidentified fighter plane, caused no casualties but much destruction to the Vatican railway station and to the art laboratory where mosaics were made. The back wall of the “Governatorato” building that housed offices and private apartments was also slightly damaged.

Vaticannews photo:

According to Augusto Ferrera, author of a book entitled “1943: Bombs on the Vatican,” the aim of the bombing was to destroy Vatican Radio and its mission to keep hope alive and help families by broadcasting messages to prisoners of war.

POPE EXPRESSES SORROW FOR ATTACK ON COPTIC CHRISTIANS

It was a busy weekend for the Holy Father who on Friday, November 2, All Souls Day, celebrated Mass at Rome’s Laurentino cemetery, one of 12 in the Eternal City, and on Saturday presided at a Requiem Mass for deceased Popes at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica. In addition, EIGHT Cardinals and a Patriarch who dies this past year were remembered, as were 154 Bishops from nearly 40 countries.

In his homily, the Pope reflected on Jesus’ parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, as recounted in St Matthew’s Gospel, who “go out to meet the Bridegroom”. He drew a parallel between this “going out” and our own lives that, he said, are a “constant call to go forth” – from the womb to the tomb. We are always on the move, he added, “until we make our final journey”. Our life is a constant preparation for the wedding banquet, for meeting Jesus, the Bridegroom.

On Sunday, after praying the Angelus with the faithful in a rain splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the terrorist attack that struck the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt on Friday. He prayed for the victims, noting they were killed “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 7 pilgrims were killed and at least 19 others injured in the attack on two buses carrying Coptic Christians near to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya. 28 were killed there last year. Francis and the faithful then recited the Hail Mary and he asked “Mary Most Holy to console the families and the entire community in the wake of this latest terrorist attack.”

The 19 jihadists responsible for the arrack were all killed by Egyptian security forces over the weekend.

POPE FRANCIS: ‘ A CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE AN ANTI-SEMITE’

Pope Francis received a delegation from the ancient community of Mountain Jews to discuss Holocaust anniversaries and the problems of anti-Semitism today.
By John Waters (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the World Congress of Mountain Jews. It is the first time that a delegation from this community, which dates back to the 5th Century, has travelled to meet a Pope.

Past and present
Mountain Jews were descended from the Persian Jews, who came from modern day Iran. They were known to be great warriors and horsemen in the past. They lived in mountainous communities near the Caspian Sea for many centuries but, after the fall of the Soviet Union, are now spread across many regions, with the largest communities living in Russia and Azerbaijan.

The Pope began by recalling his most recent meeting with a Jewish community during his visit to Lithuania in September. That visit commemorated the Seventy Fifth anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish ghetto in the Lithuanian capital city, Vilnius.(Vatican photo from Lithuania visit)

Holocaust anniversaries
Pope Francis pointed out that a number of other Holocaust-related anniversaries are fast approaching. He mentioned the anniversaries of the raid on the Jewish ghetto in Rome and the anniversary of increased persecution of German Jews by the Nazi’s. The latter used to be known as ‘kristallnacht’, the ‘night of broken glass’, due to the destruction of many Jewish shop fronts and synagogues, though more recently historians have preferred terms referring to the destruction of people and lives.

“The attempt to replace the God of goodness with the idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred ended in the folly of exterminating human beings. Consequently, religious freedom is a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism” he said.

About 1,500 Mountain Jews were killed during the Holocaust, mostly from Crimea. Most of the community was not affected by the Holocaust, partly because Nazi forces did not reach their territories and partly because the Nazis considered them to be religious Jews, rather than racial Jews, who were a higher priority target for the Nazi regime.

Anti-Semitic attitudes
The Pope went on to note that there are still anti-Semitic attitudes in society today: “As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community”.

Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis called on all religions to help the world “Turn spears into pruning hooks” so that communities may experience a period of patient reconciliation. He ended his speech with a traditional Hebrew blessing: Shalom Aleichem!

CHINA: FOUR UNDERGROUND PRIESTS DISAPPEAR IN POLICE CUSTODY
by Bernardo Cervellera

Two priests belong to the ancient Diocese of Xiwanzi; the other two to that of Xuanhua. All four refuse to register in the Patriotic Association. For this they are subjected to indoctrination and isolation. In Shangcai (Henan), the cross of the bell tower and some spires are destroyed.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Four priests from the underground community of the diocese of Zhangjiakou (Hebei) were taken away by police because they refused to join the Patriotic Association.

The diocese of Zhangjiakou was formed by the government and includes two ancient dioceses, that of Xiwanzi and Xuanhua

Fr. Zhang Guilin of the Diocese of Xiwanzi (photo)


All priests were taken from their churches to a nearby hotel to be indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government. They are being subjected to this because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association, which aims to create a Church independent of the Holy See.

According to some sources, Fr. Zhao is instead under house arrest, where he is also subjected to indoctrination.

Since China and the Vatican signed an agreement on the appointment of bishops, with which – at least in theory – the Pope is recognized as head of the Catholic Church – the Patriotic Association (PA) and the United Front have been waging a campaign to remind all priests that the Church in China “despite the agreement”, is “independent” and for this it obliges the underground priests not registered to join the Patriotic Association.

Many underground priests want to be recognized by the government, but do not want to belong to the PA, which according to Benedict XVI’s Letter to Catholics, has statutes that “are irreconcilable” with Catholic doctrine.

The message Pope Francis sent to Chinese Catholics immediately after the agreement, does not deal with this burning theme among the underground faithful. AsiaNews sources state that the Vatican’s position towards the PA has not changed and the Vatican delegation hopes to face the issue of the statutes of the PA in the future. Wang Meixiu, a religion expert at the Academy of Social Sciences, suggested that the PA should be an association with an optional membership.

In the meantime, however, both in Hebei and in Henan, the number of underground communities suppressed and unable to gather is growing. Many crosses and decorations of the sacred buildings are destroyed in the name of the sinicization of the submission of the Catholic faith to the Chinese culture, but above all to the PA and to the United Front, undermining every attempt at evangelization.

On the first of November, the Cross from the bell tower of the church of Shangcai (Henan) was destroyed, along with the spiers of the building. The church has been sealed and nobody can use it as a place of worship.

Many underground Catholics, observing the media silence on their suffering, feel “abandoned”, “forgotten” and even “betrayed”.

POPE FRANCIS GREETS 2 CHINESE BISHOPS

One way to follow Vatican coverage of the 2018 Synod of Bishops as it offers speeches by or interviews with participants, videos, live streaming of press conferences in the Holy See Press Office, can be found on the officil Vatican synod website: http://www.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/en.html

The Vaticannews site also offers #SYNOD2018

Obviously EWTN and the National Catholic Register are go-to sources!

You might also want to check the Facebook posts or Twitter pages of some of the U.S. participants – or participants you want to know about (just google Facebook or Twitter and then the person’s name).

Here’s a head start to help you:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ArchbishopChaput/posts/?ref=page_internal

https://www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez/

https://www.facebook.com/BishopRobertBarron/

https://www.facebook.com/CardinalBCupich/

https://www.facebook.com/BishopCaggiano/

Interesting news about the two Chinese bishops present for the synod – a historic first. A I understand it, one is from the government-approved Patriotic Association and one from the underground Church that is loyal to Rome and the Pope.

I have been searching for days but without any luck for a piece I wrote a number of years ago while working at the Vatican Information Service (VIS) at the Holy See Press Office. It was just before or at the start if a synod we were covering under Pope John Paul. Bishops from mainland China had been invited to attend but never did make the synod as they were not allowed to get the proper travel documents from the government.

VIS received the text of telegrams written in Latin from the bishops in China, explaining that they would not be present. We were expected to publish the telegrams as they arrived, that is, in Latin, but I said we should translate them and provide that translation along with the original. I translated the Latin to English and gave that to my colleagues who then translated the messages into French, Spanish and Italian.

In all the years I worked at VIS, I don’t think my years of high school Latin had ever been put to such good use. I felt that Miss O’Brien, my Latin teacher at Trinity High School in River Forest, Illinois would have been very proud of me that day!

POPE FRANCIS GREETS 2 CHINESE BISHOPS

Pope Francis greets two bishops from continental China as they arrive Thursday for the second day’s session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocation discernment.

The Synod on young people began with Mass in St. Peter’s Square on October 3. (vaticannews photo)

During the homily at Mass, the Holy Father prayed that the Spirit grant the Synod Fathers the grace to dream and to hope, so as to be able to anoint young people with the gifts of prophesy and vision.

Click here for video: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-10/synod-youth-2018-pope-china.html#play

POPE TO CHINESE CATHOLICS: BE FAITHFUL, SEEK RECONCILIATION, CULTIVATE DIALOGUE

POPE TO CHINESE CATHOLICS: BE FAITHFUL, SEEK RECONCILIATION, CULTIVATE DIALOGUE

Throughout his Message to Catholics in China and to the Universal Church, the Pope has specific words for “brother bishops,” priests and consecrated persons, for lay faithful an especially for young people.

The Holy Father writes that he sees “China as a land of great opportunities and the Chinese people as the creators and guardians of an inestimable patrimony of culture and wisdom, refined by resisting adversity and embracing diversity, and which, not by chance, entered into contact from early times with the Christian message.”

He tells Catholics: “I want to confirm you in this faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – in the faith of Abraham, in the faith of the Virgin Mary, in the faith you have received –and to ask you to place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the Church’s discernment of his will. May all of us implore the gift of the Spirit to illumine our minds, warm our hearts and help us to understand where he would lead us, in order to overcome inevitable moments of bewilderment, and to find the strength to set out resolutely on the road ahead.”

A church in China: AsiaNews photo

The Pope notes that conflicting reports “may have caused a certain confusion and prompted different reactions in the hearts of many. Some feel doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See and anxiously question the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. In many others, there prevail positive expectations and reflections inspired by the hope of a more serene future for a fruitful witness to the faith in China.”

Francis also acknowledges that he had “determined to grant reconciliation to the remaining seven “official” bishops ordained without papal mandate and, having lifted every relevant canonical sanction, to readmit them to full ecclesial communion. At the same time, I ask them to express with concrete and visible gestures their restored unity with the Apostolic See and with the Churches spread throughout the world, and to remain faithful despite any difficulties.”

By “official bishops,” the Pope is referring to those bishops of the government-approved Patriotic Church who were ordained to the episcopacy without a papal mandate.

He says, “The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church’s life and necessarily capable of improvement, can contribute – for its part – to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China. For the first time, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds.”

In Para 10, Francis addresses China’s leaders: “I now turn with respect to the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage and farsightedness, the dialogue begun some time ago. I wish to assure them that the Holy See will continue to work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people. The present contacts between the Holy See and the Chinese government are proving useful for overcoming past differences, even those of the more recent past, and for opening a new chapter of more serene and practical cooperation, in the shared conviction that “incomprehension [serves] the interests of neither the Chinese people nor the Catholic Church in China” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4).”

He concludes with a prayer invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.

Following is that entire Message:

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Catholics of China and to the Universal Church

“Eternal is his merciful love; He is faithful from age to age” (Psalm 100:5)

Dear brother bishops, priests, consecrated men and women and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China, let us thank the Lord, for “eternal is his merciful love! He made us, we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his flock” (Ps 100:3). At this moment, my heart echoes the words of exhortation addressed to you by my venerable predecessor in his Letter of 27 May 2007: “Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and active within the vastness of an immense people journeying through history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Lk 12:32)! … Therefore, ‘let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5:16)” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 5).

1. Of late, many conflicting reports have circulated about the present and, in particular, the future of the Catholic communities in China. I am aware that this flurry of thoughts and opinions may have caused a certain confusion and prompted different reactions in the hearts of many. Some feel doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See and anxiously question the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. In many others, there prevail positive expectations and reflections inspired by the hope of a more serene future for a fruitful witness to the faith in China. This situation has become more acute, particularly with regard to the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which, as you know, was signed in recent days in Beijing. At so significant a moment for the life of the Church, I want to assure you through this brief Message that you are daily present in my prayers, and to share with you my heartfelt feelings. They are sentiments of thanksgiving to the Lord and of sincere admiration – which is the admiration of the entire Catholic Church – for the gift of your fidelity, your constancy amid trials, and your firm trust in God’s providence, even when certain situations proved particularly adverse and difficult. These painful experiences are part of the spiritual treasury of the Church in China and of all God’s pilgrim people on earth. I assure you that the Lord, through the crucible of our trials, never fails to pour out his consolations upon us and to prepare us for an even greater joy. In the words of the Psalmist, we are more than certain that “those who are sowing in tears, will sing when they reap” (Ps 126[125]:5). Let us continue to look, then, to the example of all those faithful laity and pastors who readily offered their “good witness” (cf. 1 Tim 6:13) to the Gospel, even to the sacrifice of their own lives. They showed themselves true friends of God!

2. For my part, I have always looked upon China as a land of great opportunities and the Chinese people as the creators and guardians of an inestimable patrimony of culture and wisdom, refined by resisting adversity and embracing diversity, and which, not by chance, entered into contact from early times with the Christian message. As Father Matteo Ricci, S.J., perceptively noted in challenging us to the virtue of trust, “before entering into friendship, one must observe; after becoming friends, one must trust” (De Amicitia, 7). I too am convinced that encounter can be authentic and fruitful only if it occurs through the practice of dialogue, which involves coming to know one another, to respect one another and to “walk together” for the sake of building a common future of sublime harmony. This is the context in which to view the Provisional Agreement, which is the result of a lengthy and complex institutional dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese authorities initiated by Saint John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI. Through this process, the Holy See has desired – and continues to desire – only to attain the Church’s specific spiritual and pastoral aims, namely, to support and advance the preaching of the Gospel, and to reestablish and preserve the full and visible unity of the Catholic community in China. With regard to the importance of this Agreement and its aims, I would like to share with you a few reflections and provide you with some input of a spiritual pastoral nature for the journey we are called to undertake in this new phase. It is a journey that, as in its earlier stages, “requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4). But for the Church, within and outside of China, this involves more than simply respecting human values. It is also a spiritual calling: to go out from herself to embrace “the joys and the hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 1) and the challenges of the present that God entrusts to us. It is thus an ecclesial summons to become pilgrims along the paths of history, trusting before all else in God and in his promises, as did Abraham and our fathers in the faith.

Called by God, Abraham obeyed by setting out for an unknown land that he was to receive as an inheritance, without knowing the path that lay ahead. Had Abraham demanded ideal social and political conditions before leaving his land, perhaps he would never have set out. Instead, he trusted in God and in response to God’s word he left his home and its safety. It was not historical changes that made him put his trust in God; rather, it was his pure faith that brought about a change in history. For faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received [God’s] approval” (Heb 11:1-2).

3. As the Successor of Peter, I want to confirm you in this faith (cf. Lk 22:32) – in the faith of Abraham, in the faith of the Virgin Mary, in the faith you have received –and to ask you to place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the Church’s discernment of his will. May all of us implore the gift of the Spirit to illumine our minds, warm our hearts and help us to understand where he would lead us, in order to overcome inevitable moments of bewilderment, and to find the strength to set out resolutely on the road ahead. Precisely for the sake of supporting and promoting the preaching of the Gospel in China and reestablishing full and visible unity in the Church, it was essential, before all else, to deal with the issue of the appointment of bishops. Regrettably, as we know, the recent history of the Catholic Church in China has been marked by deep and painful tensions, hurts and divisions, centred especially on the figure of the bishop as the guardian of the authenticity of the faith and as guarantor of ecclesial communion. When, in the past, it was presumed to determine the internal life of the Catholic communities, imposing direct control above and beyond the legitimate competence of the state, the phenomenon of clandestinity arose in the Church in China. This experience – it must be emphasized – is not a normal part of the life of the Church and “history shows that pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 8). I would have you know that, from the time I was entrusted with the Petrine ministry, I have experienced great consolation in knowing the heartfelt desire of Chinese Catholics to live their faith in full communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter, who is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23). In these years, I have received numerous concrete signs and testimonies of that desire, including from bishops who have damaged communion in the Church as a result of weakness and errors, but also, and not infrequently, due to powerful and undue pressure from without. Consequently, after carefully examining every individual personal situation, and listening to different points of view, I have devoted much time to reflection and prayer, seeking the true good of the Church in China. In the end, before the Lord and with serenity of judgment, in continuity with the direction set by my immediate predecessors, I have determined to grant reconciliation to the remaining seven “official” bishops ordained without papal mandate and, having lifted every relevant canonical sanction, to readmit them to full ecclesial communion. At the same time, I ask them to express with concrete and visible gestures their restored unity with the Apostolic See and with the Churches spread throughout the world, and to remain faithful despite any difficulties.

4. In the sixth year of my Pontificate, which I have placed from the beginning under the banner of God’s merciful love, I now invite all Chinese Catholics to work towards reconciliation. May all be mindful, with renewed apostolic zeal, of the words of Saint Paul: “God… has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). Indeed, as I wrote at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “no law or precept can prevent God from once more embracing the son who returns to him admitting that he has done wrong but intending to start his life anew. Remaining only at the level of the law is equivalent to thwarting faith and divine mercy… Even in the most complex cases, where there is a temptation to apply a justice derived from rules alone, we must believe in the power flowing from divine grace” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, 20 November 2016, 11). In this spirit, and in line with the decisions that have been made, we can initiate an unprecedented process that we hope will help to heal the wounds of the past, restore full communion among all Chinese Catholics, and lead to a phase of greater fraternal cooperation, in order to renew our commitment to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. For the Church exists for the sake of bearing witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and saving love of the Father.

5. The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church’s life and necessarily capable of improvement, can contribute – for its part – to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China. For the first time, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds. In this context, the Holy See intends fully to play its own part. Yet an important part also falls to you, the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful: to join in seeking good candidates capable of taking up in the Church the demanding and important ministry of bishop. It is not a question of appointing functionaries to deal with religious issues, but of finding authentic shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, men committed to working generously in the service of God’s people, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. Men who take seriously the Lord’s words: “Whoever would become great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). In this regard, it seems clear that an Agreement is merely an instrument, and not of itself capable of resolving all existing problems. Indeed, it will prove ineffective and unproductive, unless it is accompanied by a deep commitment to renewing personal attitudes and ecclesial forms of conduct.

6. On the pastoral level, the Catholic community in China is called to be united, so as to overcome the divisions of the past that have caused, and continue to cause great suffering in the hearts of many pastors and faithful. All Christians, none excluded, must now offer gestures of reconciliation and communion. In this regard, let us keep in mind the admonition of Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Dichos, 64). On the civil and political level, Chinese Catholics must be good citizens, loving their homeland and serving their country with diligence and honesty, to the best of their ability. On the ethical level, they should be aware that many of their fellow citizens expect from them a greater commitment to the service of the common good and the harmonious growth of society as a whole. In particular, Catholics ought to make a prophetic and constructive contribution born of their faith in the kingdom of God. At times, this may also require of them the effort to offer a word of criticism, not out of sterile opposition, but for the sake of building a society that is more just, humane and respectful of the dignity of each person.

7. I now turn to you, my brother bishops, priests and consecrated persons who “serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps 100:2). Let us recognize one another as followers of Christ in the service of God’s people. Let us make pastoral charity the compass for our ministry. Let us leave behind past conflicts and attempts to pursue our own interests, and care for the faithful, making our own their joys and their sufferings. Let us work humbly for reconciliation and unity. With energy and enthusiasm, let us take up the path of evangelization indicated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. To everyone, I say once more with great affection: “Let us be inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us; they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 19 March 2018, 138). I ask you wholeheartedly to beg for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward: “Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises” (ibid., 139).

8. In this year, when the entire Church celebrates the Synod on Young People, I would like to say a special word to you, young Chinese Catholics, who enter the gates of the house of the Lord “giving thanks [and] with songs of praise” (Ps 100:4). I ask you to cooperate in building the future of your country with the talents and gifts that you have received, and with the youthfulness of your faith. I encourage you to bring, by your enthusiasm, the joy of the Gospel to everyone you meet. Be ready to accept the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit, who shows today’s world the path to reconciliation and peace. Let yourselves be surprised by the renewing power of grace, even when it may seem that the Lord is asking more of you than you think you can give. Do not be afraid to listen to his voice as he calls you to fraternity, encounter, capacity for dialogue and forgiveness, and a spirit of service, regardless of the painful experiences of the recent past and wounds not yet healed. Open your hearts and minds to discern the merciful plan of God, who asks us to rise above personal prejudices and conflicts between groups and communities, in order to undertake a courageous fraternal journey in the light of an authentic culture of encounter. Nowadays there is no lack of temptations: the pride born of worldly success, narrowmindedness and absorption in material things, as if God did not exist. Go against the flow and stand firm in the Lord: “for he is good; eternal is his merciful love; he is faithful from age to age” (Ps 100:5).

9. Dear brothers and sisters of the universal Church, all of us are called to recognize as one of the signs of our times everything that is happening today in the life of the Church in China. We have an important duty: to accompany our brothers and sisters in China with fervent prayer and fraternal friendship. Indeed, they need to feel that in the journey that now lies ahead, they are not alone. They need to be accepted and supported as a vital part of the Church. “How good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1). Each local Catholic community in every part of the world should make an effort to appreciate and integrate the spiritual and cultural treasures proper to Chinese Catholics. The time has come to taste together the genuine fruits of the Gospel sown in the ancient “Middle Kingdom” and to raise to the Lord Jesus Christ a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes.

10. I now turn with respect to the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage and farsightedness, the dialogue begun some time ago. I wish to assure them that the Holy See will continue to work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people. The present contacts between the Holy See and the Chinese government are proving useful for overcoming past differences, even those of the more recent past, and for opening a new chapter of more serene and practical cooperation, in the shared conviction that “incomprehension [serves] the interests of neither the Chinese people nor the Catholic Church in China” (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, 27 May 2007, 4).

In this way, China and the Apostolic See, called by history to an arduous yet exciting task, will be able to act more positively for the orderly and harmonious growth of the Catholic community in China. They will make efforts to promote the integral development of society by ensuring greater respect for the human person, also in the religious sphere, and will work concretely to protect the environment in which we live and to build a future of peace and fraternity between peoples.

In China, it is essential that, also on the local level, relations between the leaders of ecclesial communities and the civil authorities become more productive through frank dialogue and impartial listening, so as to overcome antagonism on both sides. A new style of straightforward daily cooperation needs to develop between local authorities and ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, priests and community elders – in order to ensure that pastoral activities take place in an orderly manner, in harmony with the legitimate expectations of the faithful and the decisions of competent authorities. This will help make it clear that the Church in China is not oblivious to Chinese history, nor does she seek any privilege. Her aim in the dialogue with civil authorities is that of “building a relationship based on mutual respect and deeper understanding” (ibid.).

11. In the name of the whole Church, I beg the Lord for the gift of peace, and I invite all to join me in invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary:

Mother of Heaven, hear the plea of your children as we humbly call upon your name!

Virgin of Hope, we entrust to you the journey of the faithful in the noble land of China. We ask you to present to the Lord of history the trials and tribulations, the petitions and the hopes of all those who pray to you, O Queen of Heaven!

Mother of the Church, we consecrate to you the present and the future of our families and our communities. Protect and sustain them in fraternal reconciliation and in service to the poor who bless your name, O Queen of Heaven!

Consolation of the Afflicted, we turn to you, for you are the refuge of all who weep amid their trials. Watch over your sons and daughters who praise your name; make them one in bringing the proclamation of the Gospel. Accompany their efforts to build a more fraternal world. Grant that they may bring the joy of forgiveness to all whom they meet, O Queen of Heaven!

Mary, Help of Christians, for China we implore days of blessing and of peace. Amen!

From the Vatican, 26 September 2018

POPE ANSWERS MEDIA QUESTIONS ON PAPAL PLANE

POPE ANSWERS MEDIA QUESTIONS ON PAPAL PLANE

From vaticannews.va: The Pope’s comments on the Agreement with China were among the most anticipated by reporters on board the return flight from the Baltic countries. Among the other themes touched on by the Pope were the defense of the identity of the three republics, the condemnation of armaments, and clerical abuse, which he called a “monstrosity.”

The Vaticannews.va summary of the interview on the papal plane as Francis, his entourage and the media returned to Rome, first touched upon – at the Pope’s request – his just-concluded trip to the three Baltic nations.

The report starts: “There was more than one aspect to the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to the Baltics—or rather, the experience that has just been lived quickly branches into interwoven themes upon which Pope Francis wanted to express himself, themes that are the keystones of his Magisterium. And so there was a reversal of roles during the press conference. At one point the Pope was prodding the reporters on the flight back from Talinn to ask “questions about the trip,” holding back others who were fluttering over their notebooks. Because the three questions asked by reporters from the Baltic countries were not enough for the Pope to fully express himself, he took it upon himself to immerse himself in the reality of the “three sisters,” Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, united in the wounds that remain etched in their collective memory. The Baltic nations are currently looking to the west, while rooted in the east, with a future that the Pope has looked forward to with hope.

And then – inexplicably for me – the second paragraph began by noting that, “The Holy Father then submitted to the duty of responding to current events.”

I found that a bit curious “…submitted to the duty”?

Catholic News Agency provided a transcript in English of the entire interview aboard the papal plane last night:

File photo from vatiannews:

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2018 / 03:49 pm (CNA).- The following is an unofficial transcript of the in-flight press conference on the papal plane returning from Tallinn, Estonia to Rome on Sept. 25, 2018.

Greg Burke: Good evening, Holy Father, and thanks especially. Three countries in four days isn’t so easy. It’s tiring. But, perhaps it’s better than four countries in three days. It seemed a bit like four countries in four days because the first day there was this surprise from China. So, we did a little of this also, we came close to China. Let’s try to remain on the theme and speak about the trip and certainly we’ll begin with the local journalists from each nation and we’ll try during the press conference to speak about the trip to the Baltics. I don’t know if you want to say something first, or…
Pope Francis: First of all, ‘d like to thank you for the work that you’ve done because also for you three countries in four days isn’t easy, especially moving from one place to another is tiring. I thank you so much for the service you offer to the people, the people on this trip because communication is important. What happened there, they are many important things that happened on this trip and I await your questions.

Greg Burke: First is Saulena Ziugzdaite from Lithuania.
Saulena Ziugzdaite (Bernardinai.lt): Holy Father, thank you for this moment and for all of this trip. When you spoke in Vilnius about the Lithuanian soul, you said that we must be a bridge between East and West. But, it’s not easy to be a bridge. You’re always crossed by others. Some say our tragedy is that we are a bridge. Perhaps, one says, it’s decidedly better to go to the part of the West, with its values. But for you, what did you mean, what does it mean to be a bridge?
Pope Francis: Evidently, you are part today politically of the West, of the European Union. You have done much to enter into the European Union, after independence, you immediately did all of your homework, which isn’t easy, and you were able to enter into the European Union, that is, a belonging to the West. But, you also have relations with NATO. You belong to NATO, which speaks of the West. If you look to the East, there is your history- a tough history.
Also, a part of the tragic history came from the West, no? From the Germans, from the Poles, but especially from Nazism, no? It was that which came from the West. From the East, from the Russian Empire. Making bridges means – demands – strength. Strength not only of belonging – that gives you strength – but of one’s own identity. I am aware that the situation of the three Baltic countries is always in danger, always. The fear of invasion, because history itself reminds you of that. You are right when you say it’s not easy, but this is a game that is played every day, step after step, with culture, with dialogue. But, it’s not easy and I believe that the obligation of all of us is to help you in this – not to help you but to be close to you with our hearts.

Greg Burke: The next question comes from Gints Amolins from the radio of Latvia.
Gints Amolins (Latvijas Radio): Good day, Holiness! In the Baltic countries, you spoke often of the importance of roots and identity. From Latvia and also Lithuania and Estonia, there were so many people who left for more prosperous nations, so many already are putting their roots elsewhere and then there is also (inaudible) general demographic problems, of birth rate. So in this situation, what can and must our nations, the leaders of our nations and also everyone personally do? How must we evaluate this problem? Thanks.
Pope Francis: I, in my homeland, I didn’t know people from Estonia and from Latvia, but yes it is very strong, but relatively strong the Lithuanian migration. In Argentina, there are so many of them. And they bring their culture and history there. And they are proud in the double effort of inserting themselves in the new nation and also conserving their identity, in their festivals. There are traditional costumes, traditional songs, and they can always return to their homeland to visit.
I think that the fight for maintaining identity is very strong, and you have that, you have a very strong identity, an identity that was made in suffering, in defense, in work, and in culture. What can be done to defend identity? The recourse to the roots. This is important. It’s an ancient thing, but it is a thing that must be transmitted. Identity is inserted in the belonging to a people. And the belonging to a people must be transmitted. Roots must be transmitted to the new generations and this with education and with dialogue, especially between the old and the young. And, you can transmit this and you must do it because your identity is a treasure. So, every identity is a treasure, but conceived as a belonging to a people. This is what comes to me. I don’t know if you wanted to pose that question.

Greg Burke: And, now Evelyn Kaldoja from Estonia
Evelyn Kaldoja (Postimees): I would like to ask in English so I have to wait for the question. At today’s homily, you mentioned that there are some who shout and hurl threats about using weapons and deploying troops and so on and so on. And, considering where we were, on that very square, there were some NATO soldiers who were deployed to Estonia just to offer assurance and many people there thought probably on the situation on the Eastern border of Europe. How concerned are you about the tensions there and also the Catholics who live there across the border from Europe?
Pope Francis: Violence from weapons and, today, the world costs of weapons are scandalous. I was told that with what is spent on weapons in a month, you could feed the hungry of the world for a year. I don’t know if it’s true. It’s terrible. The industry, the commerce of weapons, also contraband sales of weapons is one of the greatest corruptions. And in the face of this, there is the logic of defense. David was able to defeat with a sling and 5 rocks. But today there are no Davids. And I think that to organize a nation, it must have a reasonable and non-aggressive army of defense. Reasonable and non-aggressive. In this way defense is licit. It’s also an honor to defend the homeland. The problem comes when it becomes aggressive, not reasonable and border wars are waged. On borders wars we have so many examples, not only in Europe. Towards the East, but also in other continents. They fight for power, to colonize a nation. This is my perspective and the answer to your question. The weapons industry is scandalous today before a hungry world. Second, it is licit, reasonable to have an army to defend borders. And this is honorable as it is licit to have the keys to the doors of your home -to defend from attack.

Greg Burke: Thanks, Holy Father. Stefanie Stahlhofen from the Austrian Radio station CIC
Stefanie Stahlhofen (CIC): Holy Father, at the ecumenical encounter in Tallinn, you said that the young people before the sexual scandals don’t see a net condemnation by the Catholic Church. In Germany, precisely today a new investigation came out on the sex abuses and about how the Church treated so many cases.
Pope Francis: About this, I’ll speak after [I speak about] the trip. I will respond, but first questions about the trip. This is the rule. But, it will be the first question after the trip.

(Editor’s note: Discussion ensues about whether or not there are further questions about the trip. Pope Francis insists that the trip receive more attention.)

Pope Francis: People expect information about this trip. Afterwards, other questions.

Greg Burke: A Lithuanian is arriving to ask about the trip. Pugagiauskas from Lithuanian television.
Vykintas Pugagiauskas (Lithuanian Radio Television): I would like to speak in English… In all Baltic countries, you professed openness. Openness towards migrants, openness toward the others, but for example, in Lithuania already there was a discussion about a girl that greeted you at the plane and she did not look exactly Lithuanian. She was partly Italian, a bit more black skinned. So, my question is, do the peoples in the Baltic countries only hear what they want to hear from you rather than what you are trying to tell them? Do they hear your message about the openness?
Pope Francis: The message on openness to migrants is rather advanced in your nation. There are no strongly populist views, no… in Estonia and Lithuania are open people that they have the desire to integrate migrants, but not massively because they cannot. To integrate them with prudence of the government. We have spoken with two of the three heads of state on this and they made this argument, not me. And, in the presidents’ speeches you will see that the word welcome, openness is frequent… This shows a desire for universality in the measure that they can take… the measure that they are integrated, this is very important, and the measure that is not a threat against their own identity. There are three things that I understood about the migration of the people, and this has touched me a lot: prudent and well-thought openness. I do not know if you were thinking of another thing.
Pugagiauskas: My question is about the reception of your message.
Pope Francis: I think so. In this gift that I say, because today the problem of migrants in all the world, and not only the external migration, but also internal in the continents is a grave problem. It is not easy to study it. In every place, it has different connotations.

Greg Burke: Holy Father, the questions about the trip are finished…

Pope Francis went on to comment further about what he saw, heard and experienced in the three Baltic nations and then spoke of his meeting Tuesday with young people in Estonia:

“Young people are scandalized, I introduce in this way the first question that was outside the theme of the trip. The young people are scandalized by the hypocrisy of adults. They are scandalized of… They are scandalized by incoherence, they are scandalized by corruption, and into this [scandal] of corruption enters that which you were under-lining: sexual abuse. It is true that it is an accusation against the Church, and we all know, we are all aware of the statistics, I will not say them. But even if it was just one priest who abused a boy or a girl, this is atrocious, because that man was chosen by God to bring… I know that young people are scandalized by such great corruption….”

He further commented on clerical sex abuse, mentioning the Pennsylvania report and the Viganò letter, though he did name the former nuncio explicitly. He also spoke at length about the just-signed Agreement with China on naming of bishops, the work leading up to it, etc.

On China, Francis said, “I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops. … I signed the agreement. At least, the plenipotentiary letters for signing that agreement that I had signed. I am responsible. The others that I appointed in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path.”

He began his comments by saying: This is a process of years, a dialogue between the Vatican commission and the Chinese commission to put the appointment of bishops in order. The Vatican team worked a lot…..This went ahead two steps and back one, two ahead and back one. Then, months passed without speaking to each other and then the time of God, which appears to be [the time of the] Chinese. Slowly. This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese. And the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case by case and in the case of the bishops, in the end dossiers came on to my desk about each oneThen, the case of the agreement returned, the drafts on my desk. They were spoken about. I gave my ideas. The other discussed and went ahead. I think of the resistance, the Catholics who have suffered. It’s true. And, they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering….”

To read the entire lengthy script, click here: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-press-conference-from-estonia-33293?utm_source=CNA&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter

FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL: THE PERSECUTED CHURCH IN CHINA – “A MASTERPIECE OF INVENTIVENESS IN SAYING NOTHING WITH MANY WORDS” – PAPAL ADVISOR: DIFFICULTIES NO LONGER EXIST THAT KEPT CHURCH DIVIDED INTO TWO COMMUNITIES IN CHINA

FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL: THE PERSECUTED CHURCH IN CHINA

You might want to put on a new pot of coffee or have a glass of wine, depending on the time it is when you read this! I know it is long so read it piecemeal, if you wish. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal: Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte – I made this longer only because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.

As I wrote yesterday in this column, I was in the air on my way back to Rome from a U.S. vacation, when the news broke on Saturday, September 22, of a provisional agreement signed in Beijing between China and the Holy See.

As I also wrote yesterday (in case you missed it), 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 where we spent three weeks. Six years later I spent 12 days in Taiwan.

In particular during my Taiwan visit, I spoke to countless people, visited churches and Catholic villages and broke bread with dozens of priests and nuns. I listened for hours on end as priests and nuns from many different religious orders and congregations and from many different countries around the world told me their stories.

They were in Taiwan to learn the Chinese language, culture and history and traditions so that when mainland China had its own 1989 – when a wall would fall and a people would be freed from the bonds of oppression and a one system rule – they could freely go there, well-equipped to open and run Catholic schools, hospitals, universities, seminaries and convents.

I learned more than I thought I ever could on Vatican-China relations vis-à-vis the Church in China.

It is for this reason that I have been interested in and followed Holy See-China news for years but was taken aback when the provisional agreement was announced Saturday.

Yesterday, I presented 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 correct 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.

So much has yet to be understood – to be explained by the Vatican – about this Agreement.

Today I offer some of the reactions, the feelings, the perplexities of those who – like me – do not share a universal joy for the September 22 Agreement, who have many questions, who wonder about the fate of those Catholics of the “underground Church” who, for decades, remained loyal to Rome and the Pope, who underwent great suffering, imprisonment and even death, just to be loyal to the Church they love.

What I am hearing from some faithful in China is that they are incredulous at this accord that seems to say nothing, guarantee nothing and betray many – words similar to those of Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong who for years has been an ardent critic of any such accord, in the following piece from his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cardzen/). In recent months I have posted several of his English-language columns on Vatican-China relations.

You will see that he speaks of his latest book on that page in Italian. It is titled “For Love of My People, I will not be silent!”

“A MASTERPIECE OF INVENTIVENESS IN SAYING NOTHING WITH MANY WORDS”

發表於 2018 年 09 月 22 日 由 oldyosef

The communiqué of the Holy See could be reduced to these words: “The Holy See has signed an Agreement with the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of Bishops.”

To say that the agreement is provisional without specifying the duration of its validity is saying nothing.

All agreements may be said to be provisional, because one of the two parties may, for any reason, demand a revision or even annulment of the Agreement. But until that happens, the agreement, though provisional, remains the valid agreement.

The agreement is about the appointment of Bishops. That has been repeated many times by the Holy See. So after so long hard work (and so long our anxious expectation) what are the conclusions? No word! (It is a secret!?)

Then what is the message this communiqué conveys to the faithful in China? “Trust us!” Accept the agreement!” (?)

With the agreement the Government can tell the Catholics: “obey to us! We are in agreement with your Pope!” (?)

Trust, accept and obey without knowing what to accept, what to obey? To obey “Tamquam cadaver” in the spirit of St. Ignatius?

In the “appointment of bishops is also included the legitimization of the seven? The bishops in the underground are going to be reappointed with the presentation by the Government, or otherwise they should be satisfied with the recognition by the Government as bishops “emeriti”?

(JFL: The “seven” the cardinal mentions are the 7 bishops of the governemt-allowed Patriotic Church whose excommunications for having been ordained without a papal mandate have been lifted by Pope Francis, two of whom have, as many articles cite, “lovers and children.”)

PAPAL ADVISOR: DIFFICULTIES NO LONGER EXIST THAT KEPT CHURCH DIVIDED INTO TWO COMMUNITIES IN CHINA

(vaticannews.va) The Director of the Jesuit periodical “Civiltà Cattolica,” Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who is with the Pope on his journey to the Baltic Countries, spoke with Vatican News’ Alessandro De Carolis, about the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops, which was signed September 22 in Beijing.

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-09/china-holy-see-agreement-nomination-bishops-antonio-spadaro.html

At the start of the interview, Fr. says: “With this Agreement there are no longer those difficulties that had kept the Church divided between two communities. At this point, there are no obstacles to the communion of the Church in its globality in China, and in its relationship with the Holy Father. This is the objective achieved by this Provisional Agreement.”

I respectfully disagree. Did he go to China and speak to Catholics of the underground Church that is loyal to Rome and faithful to the Pope? Does he truly know how they feel, how hurt and disillusioned they are by this Accord? Did he talk to the bishops and faithful of the Patriotic Church Association allowed by the government that demands loyalty to Beijing, not Rome? If he did, that is not clear. Is everyone now at peace and shaking hands and of one accord on all ecclesial matters?

There actually still are “difficulties that had kept the Church divided between two communities.”

The interviewer did not mention the news about the persecution of Christians in China and Fr. Spadaro made no reference to it.

He does not explain the news coming from inside China about the Church:

CHINESE CATHOLIC CHURCH DEMOLITION IS LATEST IN SERIES OF CHURCH BULLDOZINGS

JINAN, China – A Catholic church in Jinan province, China, has been demolished by government agents, the latest in a series of church demolitions in China.

About 40 police and government workers entered Liangwang Catholic Church on the morning of July 17, ejecting three women who had been acting as caretakers. Gao Rongli, Zhang Siling and Li Xiangmei were thrown out of the building, searched, and had their cellular phones taken from them and smashed, Asia News reported.

Later in the day, a further 30 men arrived later, along with bulldozers, and proceeded to knock down the building, destroying the altar and church furnishings along with the church.

The action is reportedly linked to a local development plan for a new residential area and railway station. Discussions with the local Religious Affairs Office for the relocation of the church had been taking place, but there was no prior warning that the demolition would take place, nor has any agreement been reached on a new site for a church.

READ ON: https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/08/05/chinese-catholic-church-demolition-is-latest-in-series-of-church-bulldozings/

MASS APPEAL: WHY CHINA’S UNOFFICIAL CATHOLIC CHURCHES ARE A HIT WITH FOREIGN BELIEVERS

(Scmp South China Morning Post) At 10am on a Sunday morning, more than 100 foreigners wait outside one of the embassies in Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang district.

One by one they hand over passports, go through a turnstile guarded by Chinese soldiers and scan their bags before they enter a function room full of fold-out chairs facing a makeshift altar.

By the time the Catholic priest starts saying mass, the room will be packed.

Five kilometres across town on one of the city’s most famous shopping streets, a handful of Westerners join the congregation filing in for a 4pm English service at state-run St Joseph’s Church. Services are ostensibly the same at both state-sanctioned churches such as Beijing’s St Joseph’s Church and unapproved worship spaces. But the state service struck some congregants as too impersonal.

Inside the grand grey Wangfujing church originally built by Jesuit missionaries in 1655, security cameras scan the people in the pews and priests at the altar.

On the surface, the church and the embassy function room offer the same services – they are both in English, they follow the same mass format and they would be familiar to Catholics anywhere in the world.

READ ON: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2148197/mass-appeal-why-chinas-unofficial-catholic-churches-are-hit

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DESTROY WAY OF THE CROSS IN CHINA’S HENAN PROVINCE

(CNA) WEIHUI, China – The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in China’s Henan province is a popular pilgrimage site for many Catholics, where thousands have journeyed since its founding in 1903 to pray and walk the shrine’s Way of the Cross.

However, on the evening of June 5, local government authorities tore down the sanctuary’s images of Christ along the Way of the Cross, only weeks after Chinese officials told Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin of Weihui (Anyang) to dismantle the Way of the Cross without any given reason.

The Way of the Cross was demolished during the night on Tuesday, said Zhang, when “excavators and pickup trucks were driven to the site at night because authorities feared there would be too many church members in the daytime,” according to ucanews.com.

Local nuns took videos and pictures of the damages and sent them to chat groups to record the vandalism. One religious source said the Communist Party was making an example out of the sanctuary, saying the government would “allow Catholicism to exist but not develop.”

READ ON: https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/06/09/government-officials-destroy-way-of-the-cross-in-chinas-henan-province/

VATICAN AGREEMENT WITH CHINA COULD ‘DEAL BLOW’ TO CATHOLIC CHURCH

(FROM FEBRUARY 2018) – The Catholic church risks damaging its moral authority and plunging its followers into confusion if the Vatican presses ahead with an imminent deal with the Chinese government, a group of influential Catholics has warned.

Fifteen lawyers, academics and human rights activists, most based in Hong Kong, have signed an open letter to bishops across the world expressing dismay at an agreement which would involve the Vatican recognising seven bishops appointed by China’s Communist party.

The deal is aimed at restoring relations between China and the Vatican, which were cut almost 70 years ago. But the group of leading Catholics say it could create a schism in the church in China.

“We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the church, but also … deal a blow to the church’s moral power,” the letter says. “Please rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”

READ ON: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/13/vatican-agreement-with-china-could-deal-blow-to-catholic-church

‘THE VOICE OF CHINESE CATHOLICS IS MISSING FROM CHINA-VATICAN DIALOGUE’

by Shan Ren Shen Fu (山人神父)

The possible agreement between Beijing and the Vatican will be signed without the presence of any Chinese Catholics. Not only, the members of the Church in China are being kept totally in the dark about what is being discussed, even if those involved claim to speak of “ecclesial matters”. The analysis of a priest-blogger in an article immediately taken down by the police who censor the internet in China.

(JFL: THIS WAS PUBLISHED SEPT- 21; A DAY BEFORE AGREEMENT MADE PUBLIC) Beijing (AsiaNews) – In the China-Vatican dialogue which, according to many different rumors, should reach an agreement by the end of September, the voice of the Chinese Church is missing. And if the Vatican also represents the Chinese Church, why are Chinese Catholics kept in the dark and nothing is communicated to them about what is being discussed? These are some perplexities expressed by a Chinese priest on his blog. Another perplexity expressed by Shanren Shenfu (the name of the priest-blogger) is on the “ecclesial” character of the agreement, which instead seems to have only political connotations. His friends, who sent us this text, fear for his safety. The priest points out that, knowing nothing about this agreement, “we do not really know whether we must rejoice or if we must expect a heavier cross”. However, he remains amazed that the possible signature of the agreement takes place while completley ignoring “the reality of the faith in China, all kinds of persecution and difficulties that are taking place”. With great diligence, the internet police immediately took down his reflection, which we publish in full below.

READ ON FOR THAT REFLECTION: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/’The-voice-of-Chinese-Catholics-is-missing-from-China-Vatican-dialogue’-45002.html

THE CHINESE CHURCH ‘REMAINS INDEPENDENT AND LOYAL TO THE PARTY’

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese Catholic Church “will continue to operate independently. We love the country and the Church, we will carry forward the principle of independence and the concept of the sinicization of religion while remaining on the path that leads to socialist society “.

This was written by members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics and the Council of Bishops of the Church of China (bodies not recognized by the Holy See) in a public note issued yesterday, the day after the “historic agreement” between China and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops in the Asian country.

The signature of the agreement is welcomed “with a heartfelt appreciation” and the Chinese Catholic Church emphasizes that it “belongs to the same faith” of the Catholic Churches of other countries: “We want to pursue friendly exchanges and improve mutual understanding. On the basis of independence, respect, equality and good faith.”

READ ON: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-Chinese-Church-‘remains-independent-and-loyal-to-the-Party’-45022.html

CHINESE CATHOLICS: HOPE AND SADNESS AT CHINA AND THE HOLY SEE AGREEMENT

Rome (AsiaNews) – There is hope and concern, sadness and uneasiness among Chinese Catholics at the news of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops signed between China and the Holy See. There are criticisms of illicit bishops who have been excommunicated because they “have lovers and children” and are “loyal collaborators of the regime against the Lord”, together with requests to be able to see and know of the text of the agreement.

There are also those who present a whole series of questions regarding the agreement which needs answers, perhaps in the near future; those who remembers the imprisoned bishops and ask for their release. Msgr. Guo Xijin, bishop of Mindong, who should become an auxiliary of Msgr. Vincenzo Zhan Silu, barely re-admitted to Catholic communion (he was one of the excommunicated bishops), prefers to remain silent. Another, who should be replaced – or share the responsibility of the diocese – with one of the former excommunicated bishops – says he knows nothing of his future destiny. Some say that the interim agreement will bring even more confusion to the Church and China. The names of the people have been changed or omitted for security reasons.

We know nothing about the agreement, and therefore we cannot say anything. I see the positive comments of Card. Parolin, and the negative ones of Card. Zen. There is no trust in the Party, and we are worried about the Vatican’s scant knowledge regarding the Chinese Communist Party. The United States has understood it after 40 years of commercial experience.

READ ON: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Chinese-Catholics:-hope-and-sadness-at-China-and-the-Holy-See-agreement-45028.html

I could go on and on….

However, I want to end with a request for prayers for all Chinese Catholics, those of the underground Church and those of the Patriotic Association, that they might find a path to true ecclesial unity and do so peacefully.

Here is a link to the prayer that Benedict XVI offered the world on the occasion of the World Day Prayer for the Church in China (May 24, 2008): https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html

God bless!