PRESS OFFICE ON PAPAL AUDIENCE WITH ISRAELI PRESIDENT RIVLIN – THE JERUSALEM POST ON PRESIDENTIAL VISIT – CATHOLIC BISHOPS IN THE HOLY LAND ON ISRAEL’S NATION STATE LAW – HOLY SEE REITERATES ISRAEL-PALESTINE TWO-STATE SOLUTION, JERUSALEM STATUS QUO

A fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and Israel was signed in Jerusalem on December 30 1993: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/archivio/documents/rc_seg-st_19931230_santa-sede-israele_en.html

Action on some of the provisions involving taxes, visas for Catholic workers and other issues are still pending on the part of Israel. Below are a few pieces that give some background on the state of relations between the Holy See and Israel.

PRESS OFFICE ON PAPAL AUDIENCE WITH ISRAELI PRESIDENT RIVLIN

“Today, 15 November, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Mr. Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by H.E. Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

“During the cordial discussions, which took place around the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the positive relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel were evoked and, with regard to the state authorities and the local Catholic communities, the hope was expressed that suitable agreements may be reached in relation to some issues of common interest.

“Mention was made of the importance of building greater mutual trust in view of the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples, and of the Jerusalem question, in its religious and human dimension for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as the importance of safeguarding its identity and vocation as City of Peace.

“Finally, attention turned to the political and social situation in the region, marked by different conflicts and the consequent humanitarian crises. In this context, the parties highlighted the importance of dialogue between the various religious communities in order to guarantee peaceful coexistence and stability.”

RIVLIN THANKS POPE FRANCIS FOR FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM

(THE JERUSALEM POST)

President Reuven Rivlin met with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City on Thursday morning, and thanked the pontiff for his support in the fight against antisemitism on behalf of Israel and world Jewry.

“Your absolute condemnation of acts of antisemitism and your definition of such acts as anti-Christian are a significant step in the ongoing fight to stamp it out,” said the president.

Rivlin also discussed the controversy between the Jerusalem city government and church over municipal property taxes. “The State of Israel has full freedom of worship for all religions in all holy places,” Rivlin said.

In February, the municipality announced its intention to start collecting taxes from properties owned by churches that are not prayer houses. The municipality notified the Finance, Interior and Foreign ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office that it will start collecting NIS 650 million in tax from 887 properties. It said that until February it had refrained from such tax collections because the state did not permit it.

The move outraged churches based in Jerusalem, which in a rare protest closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The audience was Rivlin’s second with Pope Francis. Their first meeting, also at the invitation of the Pope, took place in 2015.

The president and his wife Nechama received an official welcome to the Vatican, reviewing the Pontifical Swiss Guard in their traditional uniforms.

CATHOLIC BISHOPS IN THE HOLY LAND ON ISRAEL’S NATION STATE LAW

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land released a statement on 2 November responding to the Nation State Law of 19 July 2018 passed by the Israeli Knesset.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews. November 5)

It is out of a “spirit of dialogue” that the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land speak out in a statement responding to the “issue of the Nation State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset on 19 July 2018.

We are all citizens
The legislation at issue limits the promotion and protection offered by the State of Israel to “Jewish citizens of the State of Israel”. In direct response to this, the Bishops write:
“We must draw the attention of the authorities to a simple fact: our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Discrimination
The Bishops also draw attention to the ongoing tension arising from the definition of Israel’s democracy being both “Jewish” and “democratic”. It is the Jewish majority who determines what this means, while the Arab minority experiences the discrimination caused by the imbalance of the “Jewish” element over the “democratic”. An ongoing struggle to “protect the rights of all citizens, to guarantee as much as possible the values of equality, justice and democracy” received a milestone victory with the 1992 passage of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, the statement says.

Legal discrimination
Recent passage of the new Nation State legislation “is a blow to these values”, the statement continues. Now there is a “constitutional and legal basis for discrimination” because “Jewish citizens are to be privileged over and above other citizens”. In addition to “seriously downgrading the standing of the Arab language”, the law ignores “Palestinian Arabs, other major religious communities, Christians and Muslims as well as Druze and Baha’i”.

Demand for equality
The statement continues with a declaration that the above-mentioned groups “demand to be treated as equal citizens.” In addition, equality must incorporate civic, ethnic, and religious identities. This demand is based on the fact that “Jerusalem and the whole of this Holy Land is a heritage we share with Jews and Muslims, Druze and Baha’i, a heritage we are called upon to protect from division and internecine strife”.

Call to rescind the law
In conclusion, the Bishops “call on the authorities to rescind” the law since it is contradictory to both the humanistic and democratic basis of Israeli legislation and international law. Thus all can be assured that the “State of Israel seeks to promote and protect the welfare and the safety of all its citizens”.

Signatories
There are 25 signatories to the statement, representing the Latin, Armenian, Melkite, Chaldean and Maronite Churches, as well as the representatives of men and women religious serving in the Holy Land.

HOLY SEE REITERATES ISRAEL-PALESTINE TWO-STATE SOLUTION, JERUSALEM STATUS QUO

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York on October 18 addressed a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East and the Palestinian question.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

The Holy See has reiterated its unwavering support for a fair, durable and early solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the resumption of negotiations aimed at reaching a Two-State solution, with Israel and a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security within internationally-recognized borders.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York made the call in an address on Thursday to a UN Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question.

Legitimate aspirations of both peoples

While expressing grave concern over facts on the ground, the Vatican diplomat called on both sides to demonstrate wisdom, responsibility and the political will to reach a historic peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.
“Persevering dialogue based on good will ,” he said, “must replace inflammatory rhetoric, violence and conflict.” “Innocent civilians must never be the target of terror or overwhelming military actions,” he stressed.

Noting that states in and outside the Middle East have exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian discord and the intra-Palestinian divisions for their own interests, Arch. Auza urged these states to rather facilitate and sustain the peace process.

“Status quo” for Jerusalem status

The status of Jerusalem has been a painful issue between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its “united and eternal” capital.

At the UN, Arch. Auza reiterated the Holy See’s support for the historic “status quo” of Jerusalem, in line with UN resolutions, rejecting any unilateral measure aimed at changing it.

He asserted the Holy See stand that the Holy City be a place of convergence and peace and that the followers of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam be guaranteed free and unhindered access to the Holy Places.
Palestinian refugees

The Holy See official also expressed serious concern over the dire humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees. Arch. Auza urged that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), that is providing some 5.6 million Palestine refugees with the most basic human needs, be allowed to function fully in order to prevent the situation from worsening. (from October 19)

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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 SHAKEN BY “HOMICIDAL FOLLY AND SENSELESS HATRED” – ORLANDO BISHOP: “A SWORD HAS PIERCED THE HEART OF OUR CITY” – U.S. AMBASSADOR HACKETT ON ORLANDO MASSACRE

I leave tomorrow morning for Poland for a visit of several days. I intend to visit some of the Kralow 2016 WYD sites, catch up with Polish friends and to meet with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and a friend of many years, starting with his time in Rome as the secretary to Saint John Paul II. I’ll do my best to post something every day, even a small column or just a few photos, so stay tuned to “Joan’s Rome” and my FB page.

POPE SHAKEN BY “HOMICIDAL FOLLY AND SENSELESS HATRED”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is shaken and saddened by the ‘homicidal folly and senseless hatred’ that has left at least 50 people dead in an attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Following is a statement released by Holy See Press Office Director, Father Federico Lombardi, on the Orlando massacre that has been described as the worst mass shooting in American history:

“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.”

The attack, which took place early Sunday in a crowded nightclub, was perpetrated by a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun.   Authorities are reportedly investigating the attack as an act of terrorism. Officials said at least 53 other people were hospitalized, most in critical condition. A surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center said the death toll was likely to climb.

ORLANDO BISHOP: “A SWORD HAS PIERCED THE HEART OF OUR CITY”

(Vatican Radio)  U.S. bishops have condemned early Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and are offering prayers for the victims and their families.

At least 50 people were killed, including the killer, and 53 others wounded when an Afghan American opened fire on club goers with an assault weapon. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando issued a statement Sunday in which he said:

“A sword has pierced the heart of our city. Since learning of the tragedy this morning, I have urged all to pray for the victims, the families and first responders. I pray that the Lord’s mercy will be upon us during this time of sadness, shock and confusion. I urge people of faith to turn their hearts and souls to the great physician, our Lord Jesus Christ, who consoles and carries us through suffering with mercy and tenderness. The healing power of Jesus goes beyond our physical wounds but touches every level of our humanity: physical, emotional, social, spiritual. Jesus calls us to remain fervent in our protection of life and human dignity and to pray unceasingly for peace in our world.

“Priests, deacons and counselors from the Diocese of Orlando and Catholic Charities of Central Florida are serving at the Aid Center established by the City of Orlando. They are on site helping victims and families on the front lines of this tragedy. Throughout the day, they are offering God’s love and mercy to those who are facing unimaginable sorrow. They will remain vigilant and responsive to the needs of our hurting brothers and sisters.

“I have asked all of our parishes to include prayer intentions during the celebration of Sunday Mass today where close to 400,000 registered Catholics participate in nine counties of Central Florida. At our 91 parishes and missions, today’s prayers have been offered for victims of violence and acts of terror…for their families and friends…and all those affected by such acts against God’s love. We pray for the people of the city of Orlando that God’s mercy and love will be upon us as we seek healing and consolation.

PRAYER VIGIL FOR VICTIMS AND FAMILIES

“Recognizing the affliction brought to our city, our families and our friends,” said Bishop Noonan, “we invite the community to join us for a Vigil to Dry Tears’ for all who are affected by this massive assault on the dignity of human life. It will be held on Monday, June 13, at 7:00 p.m. in St. James Cathedral.

“I hope this opportunity to join each other in prayer will bring about an outpouring of the mercy of God within the heart of our community.”

In a statement, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said “waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago also issued a statement, saying, “Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  We are grateful to the first responders and civilians who heroically put themselves in harm’s way, providing an enduring reminder of what compassion and bravery look like–even in the face of such horror and danger. In response to hatred, we are called to sow love. In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.

“The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

U.S. AMBASSADOR HACKETT ON ORLANDO MASSACRE

(Vatican Radio)  The United States’ Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, has condemned the mass shooting Sunday 12 June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and says he personally, thinks “we have to do something about the access to weapons in our society.” (news.va photo)

ORLANDO

At least fifty people were killed and 53 wounded by a gunman toting an assault weapon.

Ambassador Hackett told Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure that “we are all united in grief with the families who have suffered from this horrific massacre.  This is not the first [such shooting]; it seems to be the largest.  We’re just taken [aback] with the violence, the acts of terror and hate that are perpetrated on people and you really have to send your prayers out and hopes that the families will be able to get through this terrible thing.  [I’m] just calling for peoples’ prayers for the families of those people who are suffering so much.”

Asked if the time has come to open up a national debate on the issue of gun control and clamp down on the sale of weapons, Ambassador Hackett says for him personally,

“It’s beyond time for an active national debate.  The debate has been suppressed for years.  Our President has called for greater attention to this issue.  After the shooting of the children [at Newtown, Connecticut] and then again, the shooting in the Church in South Carolina, and again in San Bernardino, California – and now, this horror.  It says to us: we have to do something about the access to weapons in our society.  It’s too easy and people who should not be allowed to have a weapon have some way of getting around the rules.”