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Pope Francis spoke out against oppression in Myanmar. Why is he silent on China and Hong Kong?
By: Gerard O’Connell
23rd March 2021
On Feb. 14, 2020, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher met his Chinese counterpart, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, in what was the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the Communists came to power in China on Oct. 1, 1949. America asked in an interview if he has perceived a warming of relations between China and the Holy See in recent years, particularly since the signing of the provisional agreement in September 2018.
“I think what we feel is that there is greater understanding and more openness to talking about the issues,” the archbishop said. “Obviously, China is an immense country and has a huge population and a corresponding governmental structure, so we—the Holy See—actually negotiate with a very, very small group of people from that structure. So it is quite difficult to understand what the impact is of what they take back to Beijing or what we bring to Beijing.”
Since it seems that Chinese officials tend to follow a certain protocol in arranging meetings at different levels in the hierarchical structure, I asked Archbishop Gallagher if there are any plans for him or Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, to go to Beijing, or for Chinese government officials at the same diplomatic level to come to Rome.
“No, at this stage there is no plan,” he said.
As the archbishop knows, there has been criticism of the Vatican for not speaking out against China’s restrictions on religious freedom and its repression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province as well as the democracy movement in Hong Kong. While Pope Francis mentioned the persecution of the Uighurs once in his book Let Us Dream, published Dec. 1, 2020, the Vatican has remained silent on the situation of this majority-Muslim ethnic minority and on the repression in Hong Kong.
“I think you will find it true that the Holy See does not have a policy, a diplomatic policy, of denunciation almost anywhere in the world,” Archbishop Gallagher responded, “and there are human rights abuses in many, many countries.”
He went on to explain the Holy See’s stance. He said:
"We believe in trying to work with the Chinese. Our objective in the [provisional] agreement [of September 2018] is to resolve the difficulties we have in the appointment of bishops, and that is all it is about. We do, in our bilateral contacts with them, consistently try to argue for normalization of relations between the Catholic Church and the Chinese authorities, but we realize that this is a very long-term objective. But the question of the nomination of bishops has been and remains a big priority."
The Church in Hong Kong
Asked about the Vatican’s silence on Hong Kong, the archbishop asserted that “in Hong Kong, obviously, the Catholic community in itself is significantly divided on the policy. There are, you might say, Beijing loyalists on one side and then there are people who would like greater freedom and greater exceptions for Hong Kong. We try to work with the local church and do what we can in that way.”
“Again, I don’t think that ‘grandstanding’ statements can be terribly effective,” he added. “I think you have to ask what effect [a statement] is going to have? Is it going to produce a positive change, or does it make the situation more complicated for the local church and for relations with the Holy See? At the moment, we feel that’s the right approach.”
On Jan. 3, 2019, Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, the eighth bishop of Hong Kong, died. Since then, there has been a long delay in appointing his successor. Asked to explain the reason for this, the Vatican archbishop said: “Well, I can say that the Holy See is anxious to appoint a bishop for Hong Kong, but it has proven to be one of those processes which is complex and presents difficulties. It’s a bit going back to the classic paradigm of this pontificate; there are certain knots that have to be unraveled, and that’s not going to be easy.”
He said he did not know if an appointment was on the horizon, as the responsibility for this is with another Vatican office, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Democracy in Myanmar
Unlike in the cases of Hong Kong and the Uighurs, Pope Francis has spoken out strongly on the repression of democracy in Myanmar, which he visited in November 2017. About Myanmar, the Vatican archbishop said: “I don’t think the coup will be reversed. Unfortunately, the policy of the generals will prevail in suppressing opposition to what they have done. Sadly, that’s how I see it.”
He drew attention to “the context in which it is all taking place” and added that this is “a region of other authoritarian governments as well, so it is not as if they are getting denounced by their neighbors. I think that unfortunately the generals will not go back, and maybe international sanctions will have some impact but the generals have chosen their course, and I don’t think that will be changed.”
When asked whether or not the church supports democracy, the archbishop replied: “Well the Second Vatican Council, and indeed Pius XII years before the council, said democracy represents a form of government that very much corresponds to Gospel values. But obviously we do believe that democracy has different forms, and democracy has to be inculturated.”
“Yes, the church is supportive of democracy,” he added. “At the same time, however, the history of the Christian church has always been that we can live with many forms of government, and we have done so. Democracy is a relatively new child on the block. In some places it’s doing well but, as we’ve seen only recently, democracy is often challenged and threatened and is not appreciated by everybody. Now the church has to live with that reality. So, it’s not as if we put our faith in democracy alone. I think we have more [of] a vision of individual responsibility in terms of social action and commitment, and let the states determine the evolution of their own form of government.”
When asked about movements in countries like Myanmar and elsewhere where the people have expressed a strong desire for freedom, the Vatican archbishop said that “that’s obviously fundamental, and we would be very supportive of that. You have seen this in Myanmar where Cardinal Charles Bo and many of the clergy and religious are very much on the front line of what’s going on. We would be supportive of that.”
“What democracy actually means in a particular context, at a particular historical moment, is another question,” he added. “There’s no formula for democracy, I think. After all, democracy is not an ideal; it’s a political culture, and democracy gets into difficulties if that culture is very superficial because then it can easily be abused or rolled over. Whereas there are countries that have had several centuries of democratic rule where people’s instincts, whatever their political opinions might be, are fundamentally democratic, but that is not true for an awful lot of places.”
org/politics-society/2021/03/ 23/pope-francis-oppression- myanmar-china-hong-kong-240302
China's new measures on clergy ignore Vatican agreement
25th February 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
China's new measures on clergy ignore Vatican agreement
New regulations ask Catholics to elect their bishops democratically and report to the state administration
UCA News reporter
The communist government in China has promulgated a new set of rules for religious clergy to be implemented in two months, but they ignore the Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments by asking people to elect their bishops democratically.
The new Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy, set to come into effect from May 1, cover priests of all five authorized religions in China — Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.
The new measures, adapted from the 2018 Regulation on Religious Affairs, were promulgated on Jan. 8 as State Administration of Religious Affairs Order No. 15. An English translation of the original text in Chinese appears on bitterwinter.org, a website on religious liberty.
“Catholic bishops are approved and consecrated by the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC),” says article XVI of the order, which refuses to mention the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments, which was renewed for another two-year term in 2020.
The BCCCC, which is not recognized by the Holy See, and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which directly works under the Chinese administration overseeing the state-approved Catholic Church, are given responsibility for reporting the election of bishops.
Within 20 days of the consecration of a bishop, the BCCCC and CCPA should report it to the State Administration of Religious Affairs, stipulates article XVI.
One of the documents to be submitted to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for the record of electing the bishop is “a statement issued by the Catholic community … on the democratic election of the bishop.”
The Catholic community electing a bishop could be of a province, autonomous region or municipality functioning directly under the central government, the article says.
The new regulations indirectly assert that the election of Catholic bishops will be done by the state-approved system under the Chinese Communist Party’s direction and the Vatican and Pope Francis will have no role in it.
It runs contrary to the laborious China-Vatican deal on appointment of Catholic bishops, signed in September 2018 after several years of negotiations. The still undisclosed deal aims to appoint bishops with the agreement of China and the Vatican.
It also aims to end the division in the Chinese Church between the state-approved church and the Vatican-recognized church. While state-appointed bishops lead state-approved church communities, Vatican-appointed bishops lead the other group, also known as the underground church.
Since the Sino-Vatican deal, the Vatican has approved seven Beijing-appointed bishops, while the state-sanctioned church has approved and installed at least five Vatican-appointed bishops.
But the new regulations aim to smother the underground church by criminalizing the existence of clergy outside the state-approved database of the clergy.
“Religious clergy should love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, abide by the constitution, laws, regulations and rules, and practice the core values of socialism,” says article III of the regulations.
The clergy should also “adhere to the principle of independent and self-administered religion in China, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religion in China, operate to maintain national unity, national unity, religious harmony and social stability,” it says.
Hundreds of underground Catholic clergy have refused to register with the state-approved database because they are unwilling to obey atheistic dictates in the services of the Church.
However, under the new regulations, clergy who are not registered with the state could be arrested and jailed if they perform any clerical office, Catholic insiders say.
A church observer said the new regulations are a legal tool to intensify the crackdown on underground clergy and annihilate the underground church.
Mainland Catholic leaders have been skeptical about the Sino-Vatican deal ever since it was signed, pointing to Beijing’s lack of respect for international deals and conventions in pushing communist ideology in China.
1. Pope Francis, for first time, says China’s Uygurs are ‘persecuted’.
2. China says pope's remarks about 'persecuted' Uighurs are groundless.
3. Vatican must keep up dialogue with China, says former ambassador
Pope Francis, for first time, says China’s Uygurs are ‘persecuted’.
24th November 2020
South China Morning Post
Pope Francis, for first time, says China’s Uygurs are ‘persecuted’
* In new book, pontiff names Muslim minority in Xinjiang alongside the Rohingya and Yazidi, while also talking about persecuted Christians in Islamic countries
* Commentators have said the Vatican was reluctant to speak out on the Uygurs because it was in the process of renewing a controversial accord with Beijing
In a new book, Pope Francis for the first time calls China’s Muslim Uygurs a “persecuted” people, something human rights activists have been urging him to do for years.
“I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uygurs, the Yazidi,” he said in the wide-ranging Let Us Dream: the Path to a Better Future , a 150-page collaboration with his English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh. It goes on sale on December 1.
The comments were made in a section where the pontiff also talks about persecuted Christians in Islamic countries.
While the Pope has spoken out before about the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, and the killing of Yazidi by Islamic State in Iraq, it was the first time he mentioned the Uygurs.
Faith leaders, activist groups and governments have said crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against Uygurs in China’s remote Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million people are held in camps.
Last month, during a conference at the Vatican, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted China over its treatment of Uygurs.
Beijing has rejected the allegations as an attempt to discredit China, saying the camps are vocational education and training centres as part of counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures.
Many commentators have said the Vatican was reluctant to speak out on the Uygurs earlier because it was in the process of renewing a controversial accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. The accord, which Pompeo urged the Vatican to abandon, was renewed in September.
In the book, Francis also speaks of economic, social and political changes he says are needed to address inequalities after the coronavirus pandemic ends. ?
He says people who see wearing masks as an imposition by the state are “victims only in their imagination” and praises those who protested against the death of George Floyd in police custody for rallying around the “healthy indignation” that united them.
Francis also gives his clearest support to date in the book to universal basic income (UBI), a controversial policy espoused by some economists and sociologists in which governments give a fixed amount of money to each citizen with no conditions attached.
UBI was a cornerstone of the campaign of Andrew Yang last year during the Democratic presidential primaries in the United States.
“Recognising the value to society of the work of non-earners is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid[-19] world. That’s why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the universal basic income (UBI),” he said.
“By providing a universal basic income, we can free and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way,” he said.
Francis again criticised trickle-down economics, the theory favoured by conservatives that tax breaks and other incentives for big business and the wealthy eventually will benefit the rest of society through investment and job creation.
He called it “the false assumption of the infamous trickle-down theory that a growing economy will make us all richer”.
China says pope's remarks about 'persecuted' Uighurs are groundless.
China says pope's remarks about 'persecuted' Uighurs are groundless
It was the first time the pontiff had called the Muslim minority a persecuted people, something human rights activists have been urging him to do.
Image: Uighur men leaving a mosque after prayers in Hotan in China's northwest Xinjiang region.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday dismissed Pope Francis’s criticism of China's treatment of Muslim Uighurs as groundless.
In a new book “Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future,” Pope Francis said: “I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi.”
It was the first time he had called China’s Uighurs a persecuted people, something human rights activists have been urging him to do for years.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejected his characterization of the Uighurs.
“The Chinese government has always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities equally,” he told a media briefing.
People of all ethnicities in Xinjiang enjoy full protection of their subsistence rights, developmental rights and religious freedom, Zhao said.
“The remarks by Pope Francis are groundless,” he said.
While the pope has spoken out before about the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar and the killing of Yazidi by Islamic State in Iraq, it was the first time he mentioned the Uighurs.
Faith leaders, activist groups and governments have said crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million people are held in camps.
Beijing has rejected the allegations as an attempt to discredit China, saying the camps are vocational education and training centres as part of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures.
Many commentators have said the Vatican was reluctant to speak out on the Uighurs earlier because it was in the process of renewing an accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. It was renewed in September.
Vatican must keep up dialogue with China, says former ambassador
Vatican must keep up dialogue with China, says former ambassador
Annette Schavan, German ambassador to the Holy See from 2014-2018, says Pope Francis has sown important seeds that will take at least 20 years to bear fruit
Germany's former ambassador to the Holy See, who now leads her country's talks with China, says the Vatican must keep up its own dialogue with the vast Communist nation even though desired results may not come until years later.
Annette Schavan, Germany's top envoy to the Holy See from 2014-2018, said Pope Francis is right to continue to reach out to China despite criticism he faces for doing so.
In a long interview with domradio.de, she recalled that Francis had made it clear from the very start of his pontificate that engagement with Asia would be one his major priorities.
"Lots of people at the time didn't immediately think of China, but China is in Asia and it is huge," said the 65-year-old former ambassador.
A Christian politician with experience in dealing with China
"The Vatican simply cannot remain indifferent to the fate of Christians there," said Schavan, a Christian Democrat politician who is known to be close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Now co-chair of the German-Chinese Dialogue Forum, Schavan noted that the Holy See's interaction with China goes back to at least the year 2000 and the pontificate of John Paul II when Vatican diplomats began trying to nurture a "conversation thread" with the Communist country.
She said the first suggestions of an accord between the Holy See and China then came during the time of Benedict XVI.
"Now under Francis we have an agreement. And it will probably take another 20 years or longer before any further steps are taken," the former ambassador predicted.
The appointment of bishops was the central issue of the provisional two-year-old agreement in 2018, which was renewed a few months ago.
Appointment of bishops, not an issue unique to China
And Schavan said it was interesting that the first Chinese bishop has now been ordained under the rules of the renewed accord.
She said it was a not a novelty that authorities in Beijing would want to know who Rome was appointing as bishops in their country.
She pointed that that this was the case with many governments around the world. She noted that the Vatican even asks some for their approval when making episcopal appointments.
Schavan told domradio.de that it's important for the Vatican to continue its dialogue with the Chinese government because the Catholic Church has a great deal of experience in inculturation.
"It knows how to cope with completely different cultures," she pointed out.
"Fully Catholic and genuinely Chinese"
Paraphrasing the words of Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See's equivalent of foreign minister, she said the Church's mission in China is "to be fully Catholic and genuinely Chinese".
But the German politician and former ambassador said it was understandable that some people would object to the Vatican's 2018 agreement with the Communist regime.
"Anyone who is familiar with Christian persecution in China and with the exceedingly difficult situation today will ask themselves what about the Catholics in the underground Church in China who are being persecuted?" she admitted.
"But I still think it most important – precisely in such difficult situations – to keep the channels of communication open and to sound out what possibilities we have to convince China and its elites that religion is an important force in every society, regardless of its constitution," Schavan insisted.
Some religious in China have claimed that since the 2018 agreement, communist songs have replaced Church hymns at some Catholic services.
That's a price to pay for the agreement, others have suggested.
But Schavan said if such reports were true, this is "naturally" inacceptable. She called it an intrusion on the part of the Chinese communist party.
"Realize the global Church and world community will push back"
"The Church cannot and must not put up with such intrusive behavior," she emphasized.
"But I am pretty sure that the Holy See's diplomats, who always map out their strategies well-ahead of time, know about such intrusions and they are under discussion," Schavan said.
She argued that it's essential to speak out plainly in such cases.
In fact, she praised the pope for speaking clearly about the "persecuted Uyghurs" in his latest book, Let Us Dream.
The comments by Francis upset the Chinese leadership, but Schavan said addressing such thorny issues must be points contact for dialogue, adding that they should not be ignored or left off the table.
The former ambassador said the Communist Party must realize that when it persecutes religion and locks up believers, the global Church and the world community will push back.
She said the Vatican negotiates patiently behind closed doors, "not via the media or in the public square".
"The Holy See's is the oldest diplomacy we know," Schavan recalled.
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt writes from Vienna where she has spent many years as a reporter and commentator on Church affairs in the German-speaking world.
1. The renewal of Sino-Vatican agreement and civil unions for homosexuals.
2. The China-Vatican Agreement has been extended. Now, Rome is looking for more from Beijing.
3. Taiwan worries when Vatican agrees with China.
4. The Provisional Agreement an Act of Faith.
1. The renewal of Sino-Vatican agreement and civil unions for homosexuals
By: Shan Ren Shen Fu
A first comment arrives from China on the Agreement’s renewal. The ambiguities over civil unions and the similarity with expectations over the Agreement. The author is a blogger priest, a member of the official Church.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Below we publish the first comment sent to us from mainland Chinese following the renewal of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on the appointment of bishops. In fact, although there have been statements from the Vatican and comments from others on the Agreement, there has been a silence in the Chinese Church, which many interpret as an "embarrassed and pained silence". The author of this reflection is Shanren Shenfu, "the mountain priest", a blogger priest, member of the official Church, who compares the renewal of the agreement to the controversy over "civil unions" for homosexuals that exploded after the screening of the film "Francesco" in Rome.
Yesterday [October 22nd - ed.] I was waiting for the announcement of the renewal of the Agreement [between China and the Vatican], but that same morning on the blog suddenly many messages concerning homosexuals popped up. What I could gather from reading, is that this is a documentary on Pope Francis, released just today. The documentary includes an interview in which the Pope argues that "civil unions" must be adopted, so that homosexuals are not cut off from the "family".
I don’t have access to the original text and the only available source was in Chinese, or to actually read the original text I would have to seek out the service of a translator from the [original] language. The content of the interview has already sparked heated debates online, but we still cannot say precisely whether it is the media or producers who arbitrarily interpret partial citations. At the moment this assumption seems to be the most benign reading.
This is exactly like the Sino-Vatican secret agreement: although the Vatican admits that after two years of experimentation, no great results have been achieved, in order to push for the renewal of the agreement it exclusively emphasized the positive aspects in light of high hopes for the future. It was as if the Vatican thought that by underpinning its openings, China would in turn [almost certainly] continue to open up. Here we are now in the realm of faith. After all, faith is always the guarantee of invisible things! [See Hebrews 11,1].
Undoubtedly, we can believe that Pope Francis encourages the recognition of the "civil union" of homosexuals, out of a great love and mercy. The same applies to the fine words that were said at the conclusion of two unsuccessful years of the Agreement, without forgetting to specify that this Agreement "does not concern political diplomacy, but exclusively the affairs of the Church", that is, the appointment of bishops. (In fact it is not true that the Agreement has not brought any results: the candidates of the bishops of Pingliang and Wuhan have substantially already been defined, it seems, and the Holy See has already had the opportunity to agree everything with the parties!).
I do not know if you have noticed, the question of the appointment of bishops in China is presented in the same way as the Pope's proposal to recognize the marriage of homosexuals as a "civil union".
No solution has been reached for the question of the appointment of bishops, after two years of Agreement. So there is the renewal for another two years, during which failure by the two parties to reach a compromise will mean accepting modalities for the "appointment of bishops" other than universal appointment. This method looks a bit like [the definition of] the family, but it's still different. The "civil union" is not a family in all respects, since, according to the conception of the Church, by family we mean father, mother and their children! The social doctrine of the Church says: "true marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman, and only the marriage of a believer with a faithful is a sacrament, the rest is not" (words of a certain professor of theology).
The Holy See has always stressed that the Sino-Vatican Agreement does not concern politics, rather only the affairs of the Church. This statement seems to mean: we have not talked about politics before politics, but only about internal affairs. Having said that, if we are not talking about politics, but only about the internal affairs of the Church, why does the content of the Agreement remain secret for another two years?
The Holy See admits that it did not deliberately ask for confidentiality, and that it was China that requested it. So will the agreement continue to remain secret for the next two years, respecting China's request, just to be able to resolve the internal issue of the appointment of bishops?
I hope someone will charge me of arbitrarily interpreting the situation, but I must point out that even if I am, believe me, my interpretation remains the most benevolent!
Some may ask: Does the Sino-Vatican Agreement really matter? Isn't the normalization of the Church in China and the consequent communion with the universal Church a good thing? If it really was, of course it is a great thing: everyone wants freedom and normality. This is the hope that dwells in many. However, just like the knot regarding homosexuals, the Church must first of all clarify the concept of "family" and "marriage", so that when the Pope's support for a "civil union" is announced, it won’t cause so much outrage.
It is evident that the Church has not changed its mind on the concept of marriage and family, which is why when some malicious media announces that Pope Francis supports the right of homosexuals to have a family, the news raises numerous debates and controversies. This is also why there are faithful who question me: “Who do you think you are? These words come from the Pope, could they possibly be wrong?"
At this point, I would like to clarify that I am not doubting the Agreement because the Pope said some time ago: "I who signed it, I take all responsibility for it!". So that no one has any reason to doubt anymore. It is just like yesterday's affair: the "civil union" [between China and the Vatican] has become the prelude to the appointment of Chinese bishops. If this is indeed the case, then all the people who have won papal support have done well to cry.
Not surprisingly, yesterday in the group there was a Chinese student, who after seeing "the Pope’s support", commented: "I am crying with emotion, it is now possible to openly declare one's sexual orientation, thank God!".
The China-Vatican Agreement has been extended. Now, Rome is looking for more from Beijing
17th November 2020
The China-Vatican agreement has been extended.
Now, Rome is looking for more from Beijing
By: Gerard O’Connell
On Oct. 22, the Holy See and China announced that they had agreed to extend the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for another two years. At the end of this “for experiment” agreement—the expression used by the Vatican—the accord will either become definitive or another decision will have to be taken. Between now and then, however, the Vatican will want to see some concrete results.
Pope Francis, committed to the culture of dialogue and encounter and opposed to confrontation, gave the green light for the extension despite pressure to terminate the agreement. External pressure came from various political actors, including the United States as articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while internal pressure surfaced from sectors of the church, including cardinals such as Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Sources close to the pope told America that Francis is aware of the criticisms of the Holy See’s approach to China and remains informed of the deeply troubling situation there as periodic crackdowns on religion and repression of human rights continue, but he is convinced that the path to change is through dialogue and the building of trust with the Chinese leadership, not through confrontation.
The text of the agreement, signed in September 2018 and extended in October, remains secret by mutual consent but, as Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, remarked, much of its content is known. Moreover, he added, Benedict XVI approved a draft of the agreement when he was pope.
An article published in L’Osservatore Romano on the day the extension was announced stated that “the primary objective” of the agreement regarding the appointment of bishops in China “is that of sustaining and promoting the proclamation of the Gospel in that land, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church.” It added that “the primary motivations” that guide the Holy See in its dialogue with the Chinese authorities “are fundamentally of an ecclesiological and pastoral nature” because the question of the appointment of bishops “is of vital importance for the life of the Church, both at the local as well as at the universal levels.”
It explained that the Second Vatican Council’s teaching “regarding the particular role of the Supreme Pontiff within the Episcopal College and in the appointment of bishops itself, inspired the negotiations” and “was a point of reference in the drafting of the text of the agreement.”
According to the article, this will ensure “little by little as things go forward, both the unity of faith and the communion among the bishops” and thus serve Catholic community in China. It highlighted the fact that because of the agreement, for the first time since 1958 when the first illicit ordinations took place in China, “all of the bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome” and “there will be no more illegitimate ordinations.”
From the Vatican’s perspective, the major achievement was the acceptance by Beijing that the Bishop of Rome, the pope, has the final say in the appointment of bishops in China. Chinese authorities had rejected this authority before as an interference in the internal affairs of the country. For its part Beijing got the Vatican to accept the process of “the democratic election” of candidates to be bishops, something not envisaged in canon law. For Francis, however, that concession was less of a problem, given his knowledge of the history of the involvement of Spanish and Portuguese monarchs in the appointment of bishops in Latin America in past centuries.
Speaking in Milan on the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Italian P.I.M.E. (Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions) missionaries in Henan, China, Cardinal Parolin noted that “misunderstandings” had arisen about the agreement “because extraneous objectives or unrelated events regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China were attributed to the agreement and it was even connected to political issues that have nothing to do with the actual agreement which ‘exclusively concerns the appointment of bishops.’”
He reminded his audience that the agreement is not just “a point of arrival” after decades of negotiation; it is most importantly “a point of departure” for the church in China and Sino-Vatican relations.
Since the agreement’s signing, however, only two bishops have been appointed in China, and their nominations had already been agreed to by both sides long before. An informed source told America that other episcopal appointments are expected to be announced soon. Nevertheless, even taking account of the situation created by Covid-19, which started in China at the end of 2019 but now seems under control there, the delay in processing appointments caused some observers to question the political will of Beijing to implement its part of the agreement.
Since there are more than 40 dioceses in China that now require a new bishop, the Vatican will want to see the election and nomination of many of those bishops and their approval by the pope before October 2022 when the experimental period ends. That would be a first real verification of the provisional agreement and an important sign of Beijing’s good will.
The Rev. Gianni Criveller is a P.I.M.E. missionary and Chinese scholar who taught in China for 25 years before taking up his present post as dean of studies at the P.I.M.E. seminary in Monza, northern Italy.
Following the announcement of the Sino-Vatican decision to extend the agreement, he wrote in the magazine Mondo e Missione: “The agreement just renewed between the Holy See and China is not [a peace accord] between the two sides: it is not the end of the troubles for Catholics in China, nor does it sanction religious freedom in China. It is a compromise, strongly contested by many and celebrated with excessive enthusiasm by others. It is not a situation that is advantageous to everyone. I believe that the Vatican paid a higher price than Beijing. It is an agreement that perhaps the Holy See could not have renounced without causing further difficulties to Catholics in China.”
While supporting the Vatican’s decision and reporting that “Chinese Catholics respect and love the pope and, out of loyalty, accept the accord, even if they do not have to approve it,” he suggested that part of the “rather high price” paid by the Holy See has led to “a weakening of the prophetic role of the church” because it is not speaking out publicly on the sufferings of the various religious communities in China.
He referred not just to the sufferings of Christians but also Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, as well as the violation of human rights in Hong Kong and among Mongolians in the north of China. He thinks China has gained international prestige because of its relations with the Vatican and feels that the Holy See should now seek to obtain more concrete results of benefit to believers in China from its deal with Beijing.
Today, there are around 100 Catholic bishops in mainland China; many are very old, but all are now united with the pope because of the agreement. Some 30 of them belong to the underground church and refuse to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, so they are not recognized by the authorities in Beijing. The situation of these bishops has become more difficult since the agreement as, contrary to what Rome expected, Chinese authorities have used it to pressure underground bishops and priests to submit to the state’s religious policies.
While the agreement does not address their plight, the Vatican would want in the extension phase, as a matter of priority and urgency, to reach with Beijing a dignified resolution of their situation, one that would not require them to join the Patriotic Association. Before the signing of the 2018 agreement, Pope Francis showed magnanimity in regularizing the situation of seven illicitly ordained bishops (plus one who had died) at the insistence of Beijing.
Since then, however, Beijing has not reciprocated with any similarly positive gesture towards the underground bishops. The Vatican will want to see movement on this front since the matter goes to the heart of its effort to promote reconciliation between the state-recognized and the underground church communities in China.
Referring to the plight of these underground bishops and giving voice to the desire of Chinese Catholics, Father Criveller told America he would like to see the Chinese authorities “recognize their dignity and allow them to operate freely without the control of the Patriotic Association.”
But Catholic bishops in China lack real freedom of assembly and movement. As one Vatican official told me some years ago, the church in China “is like a bird in a cage,” and the Holy See is seeking “to make the cage larger, to gain more space.”
In this context, Father Criveller said he would like to see in this new phase of the Sino-Vatican dialogue that Beijing grants all the Chinese bishops “the possibility not only to communicate freely among themselves and to meet to discuss pastoral issues without the presence of state officials, but also to be able to visit Rome, meet Vatican officials and the pope, as bishops in other countries can do.”
That, of course, is something the Vatican has long desired. In the past it has asked China to allow the Holy See to have a representative in Beijing who would be Rome’s point of contact with the Chinese bishops and with the authorities. Beijing has not been open to this; it remains to be seen if the friendlier climate between the two parties can lead to that appointment over the next two years.
There are many other unresolved questions on which the Vatican will want to reach an agreement with Chinese authorities in due course. Among them, it will want Beijing to eliminate or at least suspend the practice of the convocation of clergy for political indoctrination and making them “disappear” for an unspecified time for this purpose.
One of the most troubling issues for the Vatican and the church in China are the regulations being enforced by the authorities since February 2018 that prevent parents from giving children under the age of 18 any religious instruction or prohibit them from taking children to church or participating in any event linked to religion. America has learned that the Vatican has protested these restrictions and hopes Beijing will return to a mode of greater tolerance.
There are other matters that the Vatican will want to address before approaching the question of diplomatic relations. It cannot overlook the unresolved questions as to the whereabouts of two elderly bishops and whether they are still alive. Another important issue is the need to resolve in a dignified manner the situation of the bishop of Shanghai, Thaddeus Ma Daquin, who was taken away on the day of his episcopal ordination on July 7, 2012 and has been deprived of his freedom and pastoral ministry ever since.
Cardinal Parolin said he is “aware of the existence of various problems regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China” but emphasized “that it is impossible to confront all the issues together.”
Nevertheless, it is to be expected that the Vatican will seek to address some of these issues with Beijing over the coming two years. Before the signing of the provisional agreement, China had refused to address these questions, saying they were matters for subsequent discussion.
Two years later, it should be possible to consider them in the improved climate of understanding and increasingly friendlier relations. Pope Francis hopes that by building trust and friendship through sincere dialogue, relations can improve between Rome and Beijing and new doors can be opened, not only in the religious field but also in relation to such global issues as peace, climate change and human rights. The next two years will reveal how far China is willing to go down this road with the Holy See.
[Watch this next: The Catholic Church in China | A Short Documentary
Taiwan worries when Vatican agrees with China
30th October 2020
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
Taiwan worries when Vatican agrees with China
Taipei takes up religion and human rights to warn the Holy See against cosying up to communist leadership
By: Ben Joseph
Last week the Vatican and China agreed on a specific topic — ways to appoint Catholic bishops in China with approval from the Vatican and Beijing. But it is a worry for Taiwan.
Theoretically, the pact renewed for another two-year term has no diplomatic connotations. Not for Taiwan, the tiny country that China sees as one of its provinces.
The Vatican is the only European state that has diplomatic links with Taiwan. It troubles the independent and democratic Taiwan to see the Vatican bending toward having diplomatic ties with China.
Taiwan managed to get an assurance from the Holy See, which has had 77 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, that the deal is restricted to the pastoral needs of Catholics in China. The Vatican repeatedly said the pact is focused on pastoral issues.
However, when the Vatican-China deal was renewed on Oct. 22, Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, openly expressed its fears. Taipei took up religion and human rights, two vexed subjects in authoritarian China, to warn the Vatican against cosying up to the communist leadership in the most populous country in the world, which has witnessed robust economic growth even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
China continues to threaten to annex Taiwan militarily.
Taking a leaf out the holy book of Chinese party bosses, who often talk about “communism with Chinese characteristics,” Taiwan told the Vatican that "Sinicization of religion" in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has become “nationalization of religion.”
With the Chinese Communist Party dictating all matters, “Catholics in the PRC are facing serious challenges to their faith and conscience,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued on Oct. 22.
During the period when the two-year provisional Vatican-China agreement was in force from 2018, Chinese authorities removed crosses from churches and demolished churches, media reports said. In its attempt to assimilate the underground Catholic to the state-run church, the government continued a policy of harassment and detentions, they claimed.
On Sept. 1, priests in Yujiang Diocese in Jiangxi province who refused to join the official Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association were put under house arrest and banned from “engaging in any religious activity in the capacity of the clergy.” Taiwan used these religious persecutions by Beijing to warn the Vatican against further hobnobbing with China.
After the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taiwanese government in 1971, most UN member states cut ties with Taiwan, and the Vatican embassy in Taiwan is led by a chargé d’affairs rather than a nuncio, a Vatican ambassador. Taiwan’s worst fear is that the Vatican may go out of its way to establish formal diplomatic relations with mainland China, which officially expelled the Vatican in 1951.
Left with hardly any choice when to comes to choosing global allies, Taiwan had to believe what the Vatican had said.
“… Taiwan highly values this solemn commitment and has maintained close contacts with the Holy See, expressing our concern and position,” the Taiwanese foreign ministry said in its statement.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin reiterated that the agreement thus far “does not envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations.”
“For the moment there is no talk of diplomatic relations. We are focused on the Church,” he added.
However, hawks in Taiwan were not ready to rest on their oars. While the talks on the Vatican-China deal were in progress, Taiwan confirmed the US$2.37 billion purchase of arms from the US under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which guides relations between the two governments.
Before that, Taiwan had approved buying a $1.8 billion weapons package, including missiles, rocket artillery and aerial reconnaissance sensors.
Taiwan is building up its defense capabilities to discourage any possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Its only European ally has already and openly displayed a newfound love for China.
The Provisional Agreement an Act of Faith
23rd October 2020
Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong
THE PROVISIONAL AGREEMENT on the appointment of bishops in China, signed on 22 September 2018 between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, looks likely to get another term. Over the last couple of months, the Chinese Church communities have debated and speculated on whether or not the agreement should be renewed.
Weeks ahead of the renewal, the Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, expressed the intention to renew it, while “maintaining the agreement as provisional, so as to further verify its usefulness for the Church in China.” This is the argument for the continuity of the agreement: “to verify its usefulness for the Church in China.”
Setting arguments aside, one must acknowledge the fact that the deal has caused confusion and distrust in the minds of many on account of two aspects: the Vatican’s apparent refusal to listen to the dissenting voices and keeping the contents of the deal secret. Although the deal has very little to boast about from its two years of existence, one must acknowledge that it is first of its kind between Vatican and the Chinese government and this might need more time to build mutual trust and confidence.
It would be too ambitious to expect overnight results, but care must be taken to keep open the windows for dialogue. But, if the attempt is to engage the Chinese government in dialogue, it is argued that the Church should also engage in dialogue with critics of the deal within the Church. Dialogue must be with everyone that does not exclude anyone.
In the heat of arguments for and against the issues that confront the Church today, one could easily slip into the danger of being pejorative. One can delude oneself as acting in defence of God and the Church. The passion narrative of the gospels according to Mathew and John presents the poignant scene of the arrest of Jesus (cf. Matthew 26:51 and John 18:10) and the classic example of Peter’s error of judgement. The disciples realised that the master was being taken and Peter wanted to defend the Son of God! What stupid audacity! “Simon Peter had a sword…” But the response of Jesus was conclusive: “…for he who holds on the sword will perish by the sword.”
The greatest preaching Jesus does in the Bible is done on the Cross, defenceless and helpless. We believe in a defenceless Christ or someone who chose not to defend oneself and our Church is a defenceless Church.
Faith in the Risen Christ is the foundation of the Church (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20) and it should remain a community of faith. Are we running short of FAITH today? Anecdotes from the Acts of the Apostles and other records of the early Church speak of a Church that survived centuries of witch-hunts and persecution by the Jews as well as the mighty Roman Empire.
The catacombs of Rome testify to hundreds of thousands of Christians who preferred to give up their lives in witness to their faith in Christ. Empires and principalities have disappeared into oblivion but the Church lives on because it is the body of the Christ and it cannot be destroyed.
Can faith alone remedy the oppression and agonies to which bishops, priests and faithful are being subjected? Perhaps we stand aghast like Peter and his friends in Gethsemane, helpless and defenceless. But then comes the response of Jesus: “Do you not know that I could call on my Father and he would at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Jose
12. Cardinal John Tong's article
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