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.


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 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.


(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


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


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.


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.”


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’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 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.


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:


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”.




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=


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.”



At Mass on Tuesday morning in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis concelebrated with the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, calling it a sign of the Apostolic Communion between the Latin- and Eastern-rite Churches within the universal Church.

Pope Francis concelebrated Mass on Tuesday morning with the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Youssef Absi. Instead of delivering a homily, Pope Francis said a few words about the meaning of the day’s celebration, at which members of the Melkite Greek Synod participated.

“This Mass with our brother, Patriarch Absi,” the Pope said, “confirms our Apostolic Communion: He is the father of a very ancient Church, and he comes to embrace Peter and to say ‘I am in communion with Peter.’” The Holy Father said this was the meaning of the Eucharistic celebration.

He said the Melkite Greek Church is “a rich Church with its own theology within Catholic theology and with its own marvelous liturgy”.

Here are some photos I took of St. Paul’s Melkite Church in Harissa on one of my trips to Lebanon:

The Pope said, “at this moment a large part of the [Melkite] people is crucified, like Jesus.”

He said the Mass was being celebrated for the people of the Melkite Greek Church, “for the people who suffer, and for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, who give up their lives, goods, and property because they are driven out.” Pope Francis said he also offered the Mass for the ministry of “our brother Youssef”.

Following the Mass, Patriarch Absi thanked the Pope for “this beautiful Mass of communion”. He said, “Personally, I am truly moved by your fraternal charity and the solidarity you have shown to our Church.”

Patriarch  Absi promised to keep Pope Francis in his heart and prayers. “I cannot describe the beauty,” the Patriarch said, of “this communion, which unites all the disciples of Christ.” (Vatican news, Vatican Radio, Devin Watkins)


The following editorial from the National Catholic Register is a very thoughtful piece that culls the salient points from the articles the editors quote. “At what price?” asks the title. The answer seems to be that the price is the suffering, even the betrayal, of the faithful Catholics who have remained loyal to Rome and the papacy, even paying very high prices.

EDITORIAL: China’s persecuted Christians deserve hard answers to tough questions, and the Holy See has yet to provide them.

The Editors

How far will the Holy See go to secure an accord with the People’s Republic of China that preserves the Pope’s authority over the appointment of bishops?
Only the general outlines of the ongoing talks between Rome and Beijing have been confirmed. But the optics of a deal that is supposed to lay the groundwork for the unification of China’s 10-12 million Catholics have raised fears that it could actually hamper the Church’s independence and its freedom to speak out in defense of persecuted Christians and others caught in the crosshairs of a Chinese Communist Party that has tightened its grip on the nation.

Indeed, as Catholics wait for more details about the plan to be disclosed — with news reports suggesting that an accord could be signed in late March — Pope Francis’ comments during a private meeting with Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired archbishop of Hong Kong and a vocal critic of the Vatican’s rapprochement with Beijing, raised fresh questions about the negotiations.
According to Cardinal Zen, the Holy Father acknowledged the painful difficulties faced by Church leaders loyal to Rome and said he had warned his envoy that the talks should not “create another Mindszenty case.”

The reference to Cardinal József Mindszenty of Hungary, the towering Church leader who openly challenged totalitarian rule in his country, was a striking choice of words.

Like many bishops in China’s underground Church who have been loyal to Rome, Cardinal Mindszenty endured imprisonment and torture at the hands of the communist regime that controlled Hungary after the Second World War. Later, he lived under voluntary house arrest in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest until agreeing in 1971 to leave his homeland and settle in Vienna.
He remained a beacon of religious resistance to Soviet-era communism, and as Pope Paul VI sought to improve relations with regimes in Eastern Europe, the cardinal became a thorn in his side. In 1973, the Pope stripped him of his title of archbishop of Esztergom, and the see was declared vacant.

The Holy See’s treaties with Eastern Bloc governments “were intended to provide for the sacramental life of the Church by facilitating the appointment of bishops,” explained George Weigel in a harsh assessment of the Vatican’s past efforts to engage totalitarian regimes published in National Review. “The Catholic hierarchy in Hungary became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hungarian Communist Party. In … Czechoslovakia, regime-friendly Catholics became prominent in the Church while the underground Czechoslovak Church of faithful Catholics struggled to survive under conditions exacerbated by what its leaders regarded as misguided Roman appeasement of a bloody-minded regime.”

Entire editorial is here: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/china-church-unity-at-what-cost


Academics, lawyers, human rights activists ask the Holy See to demand greater guarantees of freedom in the appointment of bishops and religious freedom in the country. Xi Jinping scepticism towards China. ” Rushing for a quick achievement, taking a wrong step, can result in total failure”.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – “An irreversible and regrettable mistake “: this is how a group of Catholic personalities in Hong Kong and in the world defines the possible agreement between China and the Holy See on bishops’ nominations, reported by some media as “imminent.” In an open letter addressed to the bishops of the world they ask them to ask the Holy See to stop the agreement and to re-set it with precise guarantees on the pontiff’s freedom to appoint bishops and with guarantees of true religious freedom for Christians and society. Among the signatories are academics, lawyers, human rights activists. Here is the text of the petition sent to AsiaNews, also found on the site http://www.freecatholicsinchina.org / and open to signatures.

An Open Letter to Conferences of Catholic Bishops Across the World Regarding the Possible Agreement Between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China

Your Eminence and Most Reverend,

We are a group of Catholics. Recently there has been news reports indicating that the Holy See and the government of the People’s Republic of China will soon reach an agreement over the issue of bishop appointment, as well as recognition of seven illicit “bishops”. We are deeply shocked and disappointed. With our love and allegiance to the Holy Mother Church, we hope you and the bishops conferences would pay attention to such development.

According to the teachings of the Holy Mother Church, bishops are the successors of the Apostles, bearing the duties of leading and tending the flock: “The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” ( Rev 21:14). She is indestructible (Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.”(Catechism, 869) All bishops must therefore be appointed by the Successor of Peter — the Holy Father, the Pope. And they must be men of moral principles and wisdom. The government must play no role in the selection process:

“[T]he right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs properly, peculiarly, and per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority. Therefore, for the purpose of duly protecting the freedom of the church and of promoting more conveniently and efficiently the welfare of the faithful, this holy council desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation for the office of bishop be granted to civil authorities.” (Christus Dominus, para. 20)

Yet, the seven illicit “bishops” were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China.

We fully understand that the Holy See is eager to be able to evangelize in China more effectively. However, we are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people, and “serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family.” (Gaudium et Spes, 40)

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, our beloved Pope Francis writes: “Sometimes I wonder if there are people in today’s world who are really concerned about generating processes of people-building, as opposed to obtaining immediate results which yield easy, quick short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fullness… The Lord himself, during his earthly life, often warned his disciples that there were things they could not yet understand and that they would have to await the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:12-13). The parable of the weeds among the wheat (Mt 13:24-30) graphically illustrates an important aspect of evangelization: the enemy can intrude upon the kingdom and sow harm, but ultimately he is defeated by the goodness of the wheat.” (224-225) The Spirit of God sometimes does not allow us to proceed. (ref. Act 16:6) Though the force of evil is growing, time belongs to God. By putting our trust in the Lord, the dark night will eventually pass. Rushing for a quick achievement, taking a wrong step, can result in total failure.

Continue reading here: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Hong-Kong-Catholics-to-the-bishops-of-the-world:-Stop-the-possible-agreement-between-China-and-the-Holy-See-43079.html