Vatican renews China deal
The Vatican has renewed its agreement with China on the appointment of bishops, extending a deal struck in 2018.
The Vatican said it was committed to “respectful dialogue” with China’s communist government and to “fostering the mission of the Catholic Church and the good of the Chinese people”.
The provisional agreement forged in 2018 and renewed in 2020, has been extended for another two years.
The text of the agreement has never been made public, but Vatican officials said it outlines procedures for ensuring Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China and approved by the Pope before their ordinations and installations.
In the past four years, six bishops have been named and installed under the terms of the agreement.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, told Vatican News that the achievements of the agreement also included the lifting of the excommunications or irregular status of seven bishops who had been ordained with government approval, but not the Vatican’s consent.
The agreement is still “provisional” because “we are still in the experimentation phase”, the cardinal said.
“As is always the case, such difficult and delicate situations require adequate time for implementation in order to then be able to verify the effectiveness of the result and identify possible improvements.
“Pope Francis, with determination and patient foresight, has decided to continue along this path, not under the illusion of finding perfection in human rules, but in the concrete hope of being able to assure Chinese Catholic communities, even in such a complex context, of the guidance of pastors who are worthy and suitable for the task entrusted to them.”
Many dioceses are still without bishops or have very elderly bishops, he said, but the process is continuing.
However, Cardinal Parolin also acknowledged that “there are dioceses in which, despite all efforts and goodwill, no fruitful dialogue exists with local authorities.”
The cardinal reaffirmed what Pope Francis and Vatican officials have said all along: giving up full control over the choice of bishops is not what the Vatican would have hoped for, but it seemed to be a good first step toward ensuring greater freedom and security for the Catholic community in China.
The deal, however, has been criticised by several prominent figures, including by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired archbishop of Hong Kong, who said the agreement would “kill” the unofficial or underground church in China, whose leaders refuse to register with the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
cardinal Parolin told Vatican News that the agreement is not primarily about diplomatic relations with China.
Rather, he said, “it mainly concerns aspects that are essential to the daily life of the church in China. I am thinking, for example, of the validity of the sacraments celebrated and the certainty for millions of Chinese faithful that they will be able to live out their faith in full Catholic communion, without thereby being suspected of not being loyal citizens to their country.”
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the agreement attempts “to safeguard the valid apostolic succession and the sacramental nature of the Catholic Church in China,” Cardinal Tagle said. “This can reassure, comfort and enliven baptised Catholics in China.”
As a byproduct of its dialogue with the Chinese government, he said, “one of the wishes of the Holy See has always been to foster reconciliation and to see the lacerations and contrasts opened within the church by the tribulations it has gone through, healed. Certain wounds need time and God’s consolation in order to be healed.”
The Vatican is not naive, he said. “The Holy See has never spoken of the agreement as the solution to all problems. It has always been perceived and affirmed that the path is long, it can be tiring and that the agreement itself could cause misunderstandings and disorientation.”
In addition, the Vatican would not and does not ignore or minimise the suffering and the different reactions of Chinese Catholics to the agreement, he said.
“The joy of some and the perplexity of others “is part of the process. But one always has to dirty one’s hands with the reality of things as they are.”
Is there any update on the persecution of Cardinal Zen by the Chinese government authorities?
The deal is based on the false hope that the Chinese regime would be faithful on their side of deal. As a matter of fact, the deal plays into the hands of Chinese regime, which publicises this as an approval from Pope to crush the underground church. The faithful in the underground church feel abandoned. Besides, this deal has in fact served as more of rubber stamps for the bishops loyal to Chinese regime. Another side effect of this deal is that Pope would be refrained from critisise the human rights issues in China.
Why not call it what it is. Francis throws the Chinese members of the underground church under the rickshaw for two billion a year. Of course, the China Deal is directly related to the matter of Zen, Martin Dunn, read the trumped-up charges.