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!

PROVISIONAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN HOLY SEE AND CHINA – POPE ENTRUSTS COMMITMENT TO RECONCILIATION TO CHINESE CATHOLICS – GREG BURKE: HOLY SEE/CHINA AGREEMENT HAS PASTORAL OBJECTIVE – BRIEFING NOTE ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA

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.”

Audio here: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-09/china-holy-see-agreement-appointment-bishops-burke.html

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.

DIALOGUE WITH CHINA: MORE FULLY CATHOLIC, AUTHENTICALLY CHINESE

On Sunday July 15, Vaticanmedia published the first part of the final article in a series of seven articles about the dialogue between the Holy See and China.

I published links to the first five here: https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/

Here is a link to the sixth article on July 7 on “China and the bishops: Why is this issue so important?” : https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-07/vatican-china-diplomacy-bishops.html

Holy See-China relations is a topic that greatly interests me, as you know if you follow Joan’s Rome. I’ve been to mainland China, having spent several weeks there in 1995 with the Holy See delegation to the United Nations Conference on Women and then, in 2001, I spent nearly two weeks in Taiwan. I keep in touch with a number of people on the China-Holy See situation and it has been very interesting to share these stories by the Vaticanmedia with them.

Earlier this year, when some kind of accord or agreement with China seemed imminent, the Holy See experienced a lot of pushback from people in Rome, and around the world but especially in China who know the realities. Salesian Cardinal Joseph Zen, who served as the sixth bishop of Hong Kong, retiring in 2009, has been the most outspoken critic of ties between the two, especially on the issue of who will name bishops, the Vatican or the Chinese government.

In February of this year, Cardinal Joseph Zen wrote on his blog a severe critique of the rumored Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops, calling it an act of “suicide” and a “shameless surrender” to the communist government.

Reports noted that the cardinal said the problem isn’t necessarily the Pope, who “is optimistic and full of love, and is eager to visit China.” Rather, he faulted the Pope’s advisors for an “obsession” with an “Ostpolitik” solution to the issue of episcopal appointments that “compromises without limits,” yet gains little in return.
Pope Francis, he said, “has never had direct knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party and, moreover, is poorly informed by the people around him.”

Because of the “rumored Vatican-China deal,” the reactions to this rumor and the press office statement on March 29, 2018 that downplayed reports of a deal, I find this series of articles intriguing.

On March 29, in fact, Greg Burke, head of the Holy See Press Office said: “I can say that there is no imminent signing of an agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China. I’d like to stress that Pope Francis is in constant contact with his collaborators on Chinese issues and accompanies the steps of the dialogue taking place.”
To me, this series seems like a full court press to get people ready for a deal.

DIALOGUE WITH CHINA: MORE FULLY CATHOLIC, AUTHENTICALLY CHINESE

In China, there are some Bishops who are canonically illegitimate, and others who are lacking civil recognition. This is a sign of the coexistence of two communities of Christians in the country. When negotiations begin in a spirit of dialogue, they are undertaken in order to seek to resolve these concrete problems, in order to overcome that situation and start a positive renewal.

By Sergio Centofanti and Fr Bernd Hagenkord, SJ
According to international practice, the negotiations between States take place confidentially, and normally only the final results are made public. For this reason, the particulars of the dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese Authorities are not known. Nonetheless, if there is to be an understanding, we can imagine that it would permit the Church both to rebuild the unity of the pastoral leadership of the Dioceses that see the presence of two communities; and to provide for the numerous Dioceses that are currently without a Bishop, so that each one of them might have a Pastor admitted and recognized by both the Church and the State.

One cannot expect such an operation to be painless. There will necessarily be unhappiness, suffering, sacrifices, resentments, and even the possibility of new tensions. But this kind of “threading the needle,” to which the Catholic Church in China is called, we all hope that it would be both purifying and a harbinger of good things: there will not be winners and losers, but the contribution of each side would be valued. As Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said, “It is not a matter of wiping the slate clean, ignoring or, almost magically erasing the painful path of so many faithful and pastors, but of investing the human and spiritual capital of so many trials to build a more serene and fraternal future, with the help of God.”

If there is to be a new beginning that, while respecting different sensibilities, is both more fraternal and more unifying for the Catholic Church in China, this will, in the first place, have positive effects for the sacramental and spiritual life of the faithful, who are working towards being ever more fully Catholic and more authentically Chinese.

Moreover, it could free up new energies for the activities of the Church and for a greater harmony within Chinese society. But much depends on the commitment and good will of everyone involved. The Catholic presence in China, considered purely in numerical terms as a part of the total population, seems meagre, but is nonetheless always alive. A renewed work of evangelisation could bear great fruit in spite of so many limits and controls that might yet remain, in great part due to the fear that religion could be used by “external forces” which foster social insecurities.

If the path to civil recognition for a Bishop is a question that concerns the State, with its laws and procedures, the path to canonical legitimacy concerns the Church. In order to understand this, it is necessary to recognise what the Church is. Already as far back as the second century, St Irenaeus defined the Church as the spiritual communion that proclaims and transmits the Tradition that comes from the Apostles through the uninterrupted succession of the Bishops. This apostolic succession of the Bishops as the guarantee of Tradition is constitutive of the Church herself. At the same time, it is the Church that guarantees the apostolic succession and the authenticity of the episcopate, whether through the free nomination of the Pope or by means of his confirmation of the legitimate election of a Bishop.

Even if he is validly ordained, a Bishop cannot legitimately exercise his ministry if he is not in communion with the Successor of Peter and the other Bishops working throughout the whole world. It is up to the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ and universal Pastor of the Church, to legitimate and re-admit into full Catholic communion those he judges worthy, and to whom he entrusts a pastoral charge. With regard to China, one begins with this certainty: the new episcopal consecrations that have taken place in China without a pontifical mandate were illicit but valid (with the exception of very specific cases). Despite these sorrowful situations of irregularity, the Catholic Church in China has always remained ‘one’ because it has never formally established itself as ‘separate’ from Rome; and further, because it has never elaborated a doctrinal position repudiating the primacy of jurisdiction.

But there is another piece of evidence which must be considered, namely, that the living desire to be in union with the Pope has always been present in those Chinese Bishops ordained in an illegitimate manner. The irregular condition of these Bishops notwithstanding, the recognition of their desire to be in union with the Supreme Pontiff makes the difference between two conflicting opinions that have emerged in recent years: those who believe the illegitimate Bishops to be sincere accept their repentance (although not condoning the inappropriate behaviour of some of them); while those who do not believe their sincerity have often condemned them.

THE VATICAN AND CHINA: DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION

The Vatican news site today published the fifth in a series of articles about the Holy See and China. I researched the previous stories, given my interest in these relations, and put the links to previous articles at the end of today’s piece.

THE VATICAN AND CHINA: DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION

(July 3, 2018) The Chinese Catholic community, together with their bishops – both recognized and not recognized by the government – are in favour of a dialogue with the authorities. But the dialogue will remain purely theoretical, if the risk of a true negotiation for building up the common good is not accepted, as Pope Francis has emphasized.  (By Sergio Centofanti and Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ)

Open and respectful dialogue is an attitude that allows us to accept the other in their diversity, recognizing their identity and their mission: walking together we are enriched, each one in function of the other. For true dialogue, it is necessary for each one to be secure in their own identity, and to recognize the identity of the other. True dialogue takes place in the dynamic of the Incarnation, by which God dialogues with humans and seeks them, in order to establish with them a relationship of salvation.

On the other hand, negotiation – according to Pope Francis – is a practical manner of proceeding in which each one seeks to obtain something from the other: negotiation is always about getting “a bigger slice of the pie,” so to speak. But this should be done in such a way that everyone comes out a “winner.” And so every negotiation, and every accord that follows, will always be imperfect, temporary, like a spiral in a long process that is being constructed over a long period of time.

Consistently with his open and respectful style of communication, of acceptance of the other in their diversity, of recognition of the identity and mission of each one, Pope Francis has continued the commitment to promote and sustain the official dialogue with the Chinese government. In this way, real negotiation has begun again, a negotiation that in truth has never been easy, and at times has even seen abrupt interruptions. It’s happened, in fact, that the two Parties at times have re-iterated their good intentions to dialogue and reach an agreement; but then, at the moment of understanding, have pulled back because of some obstacle.

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that a good part of the Church in China, not only within the “official” community, but also within the “non-official” community,” is favourable to the dialogue that’s been undertaken. Though it would be risky to speak of percentages, one could take notice of the opinion of the Chinese Bishops, whether recognized or not recognized by the Government, who have expressed their support for the resumption of dialogue and the eventual conclusion of an Accord.

A Bishop recognised by the government, who has very positively welcomed news of the resumption of the dialogue between China and the Holy See, has pointed out that the majority of Catholics support the Pope and the China-Holy See Dialogue, and are praying intensely that an agreement might be reached.

Another Bishop, not recognised by the Government, has pointed out that the resumption of the dialogue is a good thing. Now, obviously we need to consider the facts, and not just words. But seeing and speaking with one another is better than not seeing, because only by seeing and speaking can problems be addressed.

And this precisely is the dynamic and difficult art of dialogue: dialogue allows us to draw closer together, to know the identity of the other and make known to the other their own identity, so that, by engaging in dialogue, mutual intentions are made clear, beyond conventional words. It is also quite normal, in the dynamic of a dialogue, for the Parties at times to drift apart, because of the feeling of having conceded too much to the other, of having renounced their legitimate needs, and in order to better present and defend their own expectations.

In order to reach a solution that would be acceptable to both Parties, however, they must even be willing to modify what is excessive in their own expectations. For the Church’s part, this means that she must distinguish between what is essential for the Christian faith, and what is not. A serious and authentic dialogue can work when each one of the Parties accepts their Counterpart, respects the dynamic of the discussion and of differing opinions, and seeks to understand the good reasons that are the basis of different proposals for solutions to the problems.

All of this can be very gruelling. Only with a spirit of mutual trust and generosity can the rhythm of dialogue be maintained in the course of numerous and often exhausting sessions that make up negotiations. Both Parties must maintain this responsible behaviour, remaining calm when consensus seems far away, or even unobtainable, consolidating the small steps that bring them closer, always preserving a positive attitude that nourishes a growing confidence in the sincerity of the other Party.

This is the fifth in a series of in-depth articles on the dialogue between the Holy See and China. Here are links to the previous four articles:

MAY 2: Dialogue with China: There is no magic wand
Although a number of recent signs may indicate that important steps are being made in the Holy See’s dialogue with China, any formal Agreement between the two does not seem imminent. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2018-05/holy-see-china-diplomacy.html

MAY 7: Dialogue with China: Small steps towards mutual trust
Why is the Vatican engaging in a dialogue with Chinese authorities? In China, Catholics have remained faithful despite the suffering caused by a regime that is hostile to religion. So what can such dialogue achieve? https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2018-05/holy-see-china-diplomacy-mutual-trust.html

JUNE 26: Dialogue: Necessary for the Church’s mission in China
The mission of the Church is always the same; but in order to implement it in today’s Chinese context, constructive dialogue between the Church and civil authorities is needed. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-06/holy-see-china-dialogue-pope-francis-catholic-church-vatican.html

JUNE 30: Protagonists of dialogue: Chinese Authorities and the Holy See
The Church, and the Popes in particular, have always been able to make the distinction between the condemnation of unacceptable theoretical positions, on the one hand; and being able to seek dialogue on the basis of practical projects, on the other. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2018-06/pope-francis-holy-see-china-dialogue-protagonists.html

POPE INTERVIEW: TALKS WITH CHINA, MIGRATION, CHILE ABUSE CRISIS – POPE SAYS NO TO WOMEN PRIESTS, YES TO WOMEN IN CURIAL LEADERSHIP – POPE TALKS TO REUTERS ABOUT THE ‘DIALOGUE WITH CHINA’

The papal interview seen by Vatican News, CNA and AsiaNews:

POPE INTERVIEW: TALKS WITH CHINA, MIGRATION, CHILE ABUSE CRISIS

Pope Francis spoke about talks with China, migration policy, populism, Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis, reform of the Roman Curia, and other issues in a wide-ranging interview with the Reuters news agency. The interviewer was Philip Pullella, head of Reuter’s Rome bureau.

by Susy Hodges (Vatican news)

In a new one-on-one interview Pope Francis has responded to a series of questions on various issues including the Holy See’s talks with China, the position of women within the Church, migration policy, populism, Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis and reform of the Roman Curia.

Talks with China “at a good point”
Asked in the interview about relations with China, Pope Francis said he was optimistic about the outcome of normalization talks with the Chinese authorities saying they were “at a good point” but couldn’t say when they would conclude. He acknowledged that dialogue “is a risk” but said he preferred that to “the certain defeat” of not holding a dialogue with Beijing.

The Pope talked at length about immigration during the interview and was asked about the U.S. administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the U.S./Mexican border. In his reply, he said he supported recent statements issued by U.S. Catholic Bishops who called the separation of children from their parents contrary to Catholic values and immoral.

Turning to the migration situation in Europe, the Holy Father said populists were “creating a psychosis” on the issue of immigration, even as ageing societies like Europe faced “a great demographic winter” and needed more immigrants.

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive. You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” he said. He praised Italy and Greece for being “courageous and generous” by taking in these migrants.

Populism is not the solution
Pope Francis warned that populism does not resolve issues like migration problems. “What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence,” he said. The Pope also said Europe should stop exploiting Africa and invest in ways that benefit the continent more and this could help solve the problem of migration at its roots.

When asked about women calling for more top positions in the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said he agreed there were few women in positions of responsibility there. He said he wanted to appoint more women to head Vatican departments because “women are better at resolving conflicts.” At the same time, he reiterated that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. “(Pope) John Paul II was clear on this point and closed the door and I am not going back on that,” he said.

Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis was another topic discussed at length during the interview. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of three bishops in Chile and said he could accept more resignations in the future.

He spoke of how he returned “a bit worried” after his pastoral visit to Chile in January this year and explained why he decided to send Archbishop Charles Scicluna to the Latin American nation to carry out further investigations into the abuse crisis.

POPE SAYS NO TO WOMEN PRIESTS, YES TO WOMEN IN CURIAL LEADERSHIP

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.

Responding to a question about women’s ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to ‘functionalize’ the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”

“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn’t work.”

“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”

However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.

“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican’s deputy spokesperson.

He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”

Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn’t matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.

“I don’t have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn’t have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.

For example, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.

Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don’t want to fall into this.”

Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place Sunday at the pope’s Vatican residence, and was published June 20.

In the interview, the pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he’s faced.

On the topic of women, Francis said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.

“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.

“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”

Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip, however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.”

POPE TALKS TO REUTERS ABOUT THE ‘DIALOGUE WITH CHINA’

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis was interviewed by Philip Pullella of Reuters. In the tête-à-tête, the pontiff said that with respect to the dialogue with China, “We are at a good point”. In addition to diplomatic channels there are friendships and cultural exchanges. The Chinese people are “very wise” and know how to wait. By kind permission, we publish here a translation of an excerpt from the registration of the interview between the Holy Father and the journalist two days ago.

Q: How is the rapprochement with China?
R. We are at a good point, but relations with China follow three different paths. First of all, there is the official one. The Chinese delegation comes here, takes part in meetings, and then the Vatican delegation goes to China. Relations are good and we have managed to do good things. This is the official dialogue.

Then there is a second dialogue, of everyone and with everyone. “I am a cousin of the minister so and so who sent me to say that . . .”. There is always an answer. “Yes, all right, let’s go forward.” These side channels are open, let’s say, at a human level, and we do not want to burn them. We can see goodwill, both from the Holy See and the Chinese government.

The third path, which for me is the most important in the rapprochement with China, is cultural. Some priests work at Chinese universities. Then there is also culture, like the exhibit that was put on in the Vatican and in China.[1] This is the traditional path, like those of the great ones, like Matteo Ricci.

I like to think about relations with China as, multifaceted, based not only the official diplomatic one, because the other two are very enriching. I think things are going well. In your question, you mentioned two steps forward and one step backward. I think the Chinese deserve the Nobel Prize for patience, because they are good, they know how to wait, time is theirs and they have centuries of culture . . . They are a wise people, very wise. I respect China a lot.

Q: How do you respond to concerns such as those of Cardinal Zen?

A: Cardinal Zen taught theology in patriotic seminaries. I think he’s a little scared. Perhaps age might have some influence. He is a good man. He came to talk to me. I received him, but he’s a bit scared. Dialogue is a risk, but I prefer the risk to the sure defeat of not talking. With respect to time, someone mentioned Chinese time. I think it is God’s time, forward, calm.

POPE FRANCIS STARTS NEW CATECHESIS ON CONFIRMATION – POPE ASKS FOR PRAYERS FOR CATHOLICS IN CHINA

POPE FRANCIS STARTS NEW CATECHESIS ON CONFIRMATION

Pope Francis’s catechesis on Wednesday focused on the Sacrament of Confirmation. He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience. Here is the official English Summary of his address:

Dear brothers and sisters: In these days following the Church’s celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, our catechesis turns to the sacrament of Confirmation, which “confirms” the grace of our Baptism and “anoints” us with the Spirit to bear witness to Christ before the world. Jesus himself, filled with the Holy Spirit, carried out his mission as the Lord’s Anointed, and after his death and resurrection, bestowed the Spirit upon his disciples, who went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works (cf. Acts 2:11). As Christ was anointed by the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan, so at Pentecost the Church received the Spirit in order to carry out her mission of preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In Confirmation, Jesus fills us with his Spirit and makes us sharers in his own life and mission, in accordance with the Father’s saving plan. May this sacrament strengthen us to be ever docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as we strive in all our actions and words to live fully the new life received in Baptism and to advance the Church’s mission in the world.

POPE ASKS FOR PRAYERS FOR CATHOLICS IN CHINA

Pope Francis, at the end of the general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, asked for prayers for Chinese Catholics.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis has appealed to all Christians to be spiritually close to Catholics who live in China, and to pray they may live their faith in full communion with the Holy See. Speaking during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled that Thursday, May 24, is the Feast Day of “Mary Help of Christians,” and noted that she is particularly venerated at the Sanctuary of Sheshan, in Shanghai.

He said this observance invites us to be spiritually close to all Catholic believers who live in China and asked for prayers so that they “may live their faith with generosity and serenity” and “be able to make concrete gestures of fraternity, harmony and reconciliation in full communion with the Successor of Peter.”

“Dear disciples of the Lord in China, the Universal Church prays with you and for you, so that even amid difficulties, you may continue to entrust yourselves to God’s will,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded his appeal saying that Our Lady will never deprive them of Her help and that She will look over them with the love of a mother.

XINJIANG: CROSSES, DOMES, STATUES DESTROYED: THE NEW ‘SINICIZED’ CULTURAL REVOLUTION

As you know, I continue to follow events in mainland China given the apparent desire of the Holy See to establish some kind of diplomatic ties with this communist country. In addition to friends I have in Asia, AsiaNews and UCAN are my principal sources of information because I know they have reliable people on the ground as well as many contacts with the faithful – both the government approved Patriotic Catholic Association and the persecuted “underground” Church.

Here is a very telling piece by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews:

XINJIANG: CROSSES, DOMES, STATUES DESTROYED: THE NEW ‘SINICIZED’ CULTURAL REVOLUTION

Crosses removed from the domes and the tympanum of Yining Church as well as external decorations and crosses, and the Way of the Cross within the church. The same happened at the churches of Manas and Hutubi. The Cross represents “a foreign religious infiltration “. Prayer services forbidden even in private houses under the threat of arrests and re-education. Children and young people forbidden to enter churches. Religious revival frightens the Party.

Rome (AsiaNews) – “It’s a new Cultural Revolution”: this most frequent online comment in reaction to photos of the church of Yining (Xinjiang) stripped of the crosses that stood on the building, of the statues that stood on its tympanum and the decorations and paintings that embellished the facade.

The photo that we published (on the left) shows the color, the momentum, the lightness of the domes and wall decorations, the crosses on the top of the building, before their destruction. The photo on the right shows the “after”. Everything was destroyed by order of the government on February 27 and 28, just a few weeks after the meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations, which reportedly resulted in the drafting of a “historic” agreement on the nominations of bishops in the Chinese Catholic Church.

Yining, 700 km west of the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, has a Catholic community of a few hundred faithful.

The reference to the Cultural Revolution is a must: in the period from 1966 to 1976 the Red Guards led by Mao and the “band of the Four” implemented the most extreme form of communism by destroying churches, temples, pagodas, prayer books, statues, paintings to annihilate all religion.

But the “Cultural Revolution” of these days is justified by another slogan: “sinicization”. This implies – as Xi Jinping explained three years ago and reaffirmed at the Party Congress last October – “adhering to and developing religious theories with Chinese characteristics”, adhering to the principle of “independence”, adapting religion to socialist society and resisting “religious infiltration from abroad”.

Now the symbol of the cross represents “a religious infiltration from abroad”: from the church of Yining, not only were the two crosses that overlapped the two domes razed to the ground, but also the crosses inside the sacred building have disappeared, including the Way of the Cross and the decorations in the form of a cross have been ripped from the pews.

The iconoclastic fury has also affected other cities. Even before last Christmas, all the crosses from the church of Manas were destroyed and there are rumors that the same happened in the church of Hutubi.

The comparison with the Cultural Revolution does not stop there. Just like then, it is forbidden for believers to pray even in private, in their homes. The police threaten that if they find two people praying together in their home, they will be arrested and forced to undergo re-education.

Under the new regulations on religious activities, proposed last September and implemented last February 1st, worship can only be carried out in church, at the times set by the government. Any other place is considered an “illegal place” and those who break such regulations will be subject to prison, fines, expropriation of the building that houses illegal religious activity. Even private homes are now considered an “illegal place of worship”: in every private house religious conversation or prayer is forbidden, under threat of arrest. The faithful can pray only in church, during Sunday service.

All churches must display a sign at their entrance announcing that the building is “forbidden to minors under the age of 18” must be exposed because children and young people are prohibited from participating in religious rites.

It should be noted that the churches mentioned are not illegal buildings, but officially registered churches. The point is that “sinicization” implies submission to the Chinese Communist Party, which must act as an “active guide” of religions, on which their life or death, every construction and every destruction, depends.

The ruthless and suffocating control of the Party on religions can only be explained by fear. It is now everyone’s experience in China – confirmed by various sociologists – that the country is in the midst of an impressive religious renaissance, to the point that over 80% of the population has some spiritual beliefs and that at least one fifth of the Party members secretly adhere to some form of religion. All this promises more control and persecution in the future.

“I am very sad – a faithful of Urumqi confides to AsiaNews – that the Vatican is compromising with this government. In this way it becomes an accomplice of those who want our annihilation”.

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&idn=1&art=43249&mag=visualizzaperlastampa

VATICAN INSIDER: A FOCUS ON HOLY SEE-CHINA RELATIONS – YOUNG PEOPLE PARTICIPATE IN SYNODAL PROCESS

VATICAN INSIDER: A FOCUS ON HOLY SEE-CHINA RELATIONS

The interview segment of Vatican Insider is my must-not-miss conversation
with a special guest and friend of over 20 years, Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews, a PIME missionary online publication. We talk about the very troubling situation in mainland China and the issues between China and the Vatican.

As I mentioned last week for Part I of our conversation, Father Bernardo has been to China many times and is an expert on China and Church affairs. Though I have nowhere near his expertise in all things China, I did spend three weeks in Beijing as a member of the Holy See delegation to the September 1995 United Nations Conference on Women, and I learned a great deal about China at the time, especially on matters of religious freedom. I learned even more six years later when I spent 12 days in Taiwan, devoted to visiting churches and schools, meeting priests and nuns and the late Cardinal Paul Shan whom I visited in Kaoshiung.

And I have followed all things China ever since!

Our conversation this weekend in Part II of our meeting is of vital importance, especially because we talk about the seemingly great differences in the stories about China that are coming from the Vatican and also from a very respected, retired Chinese cardinal – Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

YOUNG PEOPLE PARTICIPATE IN SYNODAL PROCESS

300 young people will participate in a first-ever of its kind pre-synodal meeting that will take place from March 19 to 24 in preparation for the XV Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

An estimated 300 young people from around the world have been chosen to come to Rome in preparation for the XV Synod of Bishops to take place in October 2018. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops explained at a press conference on Friday that for the first time in the history of the Synod of Bishops, a pre-synodal meeting is planned for March 19 to 24.

The young people attending this meeting were chosen by conferences of bishops, religious congregations, and other Vatican dicasteries. They represent young people from various ethnic, and religious backgrounds, walks of life, and lived experiences—including some who have experienced human trafficking.

This meeting is being held to assure that the voice of the very audience the Synod is addressing – young people – will be heard first-hand. The input from this meeting will be presented to Pope Francis on March 25. It will also be included in the Instrumentum laboris that will be used by the Synod Fathers as they focus this theme.

How young people’s voices are being heard

Social media is the primary way that the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops wishes to hear from young people. Over 221,000 responses to the online questionnaire have already been received. It is now possible to participate in Facebook Groups in various languages by signing up using the link found on the Synod’s website.

Also present at Friday’s press conference were two young people participating in a group organized by the secretariat preparing for the synod. Filippo Passantino underlined the use of social media in order to involve young people in the synod. Referring to the synod’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, he said that “with our advice and our intuition, we offered a younger perspective in order to speak to other young people. The objective of the online presence is to create interactions with our peers throughout the world and to facilitate their participation.”

Stella Marillene Nishimwe, speaking in French, said, “I would (…) like to invite all the young people of the world to participate in this precious moment that the Church offers us to make our voice reach as far as possible.”