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