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1. Pope Francis' action-packed agenda for 2022
2. Pope blesses Macau Catholic university on
Pope Francis' action-packed agenda for 2022 including China.
The pope, who celebrated his 85th birthday on Dec. 17, is clearly not planning to slow down. The pope is in good health, and his plans for 2022 indicate that he is carrying out his duties as pontiff with as much vigor as ever; there appears to be no resignation or conclave on the horizon.
Such a busy agenda would be daunting even for a younger man, but the pope, who celebrated his 85th birthday on Dec. 17, is not planning to slow down.
As Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias told America, Francis’ attitude towards his papacy can be summed up as: “The Lord has chosen me, the Lord will protect me as long as he wants. I’m doing my best, and when he wants, he takes me away.”
By the end of June 2022, the final phase of the restructuring and merging of Vatican offices is expected to be completed. The Pontifical Council for Culture will be incorporated into the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization will be merged into the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Just after Christmas, the pope entrusted the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization—one of the councils being merged—with the task of preparing for the Jubilee Year 2025, but it is currently unclear what impact this task will have on the merger.
It also remains to be seen what changes Francis will introduce into the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, given that he has appointed Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., as its interim prefect and Alessandra Smerilli, F.M.A., as its secretary.
The pope is expected to publish the long-awaited constitution for the reform of the Roman Curia, “Predicate Evangelium,” sometime in the first six months of 2022.
The pope is also expected to publish the long-awaited constitution for the reform of the Roman Curia, “Predicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), sometime in the first six months of 2022. Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of the pope’s council of cardinal advisors, said that he expects it to be published by Easter (April 17) if the translations into different languages have been completed by then.
Pope Francis will likely replace many, if not all, of the following senior Vatican officials in the new year, since many of the clergy in these positions have already passed the Vatican retirement age of 75. Those who are likely to be replaced include:
This opens the possibility for Francis to appoint at least seven new clerics to top leadership positions in the Vatican over the coming year. If he does so, then for the first time in his pontificate, all the senior Vatican officials will be chosen by him. (As of now, some have been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI and confirmed by Francis.)
As the year 2021 drew to a close, the College of Cardinals had a total of 120 electors—the maximum number allowed, as established by Pope Paul VI in 1975—but 10 of those electors will turn 80 in 2022, and will accordingly lose the right to vote in a papal conclave. Francis is expected to hold a consistory to make new cardinals, probably in the second half of the year. He will name at least 10 new cardinal electors then, which would increase the number of electors created by him in the College of Cardinals by the end of 2022 to at least 72.
Among those expected to receive the red hat are three senior Vatican officials that Francis appointed in 2021.
Among those expected to receive the red hat are three senior Vatican officials that Francis appointed in 2021: Archbishop Arthur Roche of England, who is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Korea, who is the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; and Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga of Spain, who is the president of both the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and the Governorate of Vatican City State.
Pope Francis will participate in the 10th annual World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Rome from June 22 to June 26. The event will have a “multi-centered format, with local initiatives in dioceses around the world,” to allow those who cannot travel due to the pandemic to participate, according to the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
Pope Francis will participate in the 10th annual World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Rome from June 22 to June 26.
“While Rome will remain the designated venue, each diocese will be able to be the center of a local Meeting for its own families and communities,” the dicastery’s website reads.
Francis is now the second-most-traveled pope in history, after St. John Paul II. Over the eight years of his pontificate so far, he has made 35 foreign journeys and visited 53 countries. The pope plans to make several more trips in 2022, though the Vatican has not yet confirmed any. While some of these visits—including to South Sudan and Lebanon—are subject to change based on local political situations, all of them will be contingent on the Covid-19 situation both in Italy and at the destinations.
Over the eight years of Francis’ pontificate so far, he has made 35 foreign journeys and visited 53 countries.
Francis has tentative plans to visit South Sudan with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, probably in mid-2022 to foster reconciliation and consolidate the peace agreement between warring ethnic factions. But his going there will depend, among other things, on whether the peace accord has been fully implemented. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, visited South Sudan the week before Christmas on what insiders interpreted as a reconnaissance mission to evaluate whether the country is ready for a papal visit.
Vatican sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak, told America that if Francis goes to South Sudan, he is likely also to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that has suffered greatly from armed conflict over the past several decades—much of it linked to access to the country’s rare minerals. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the largest Catholic population in Africa and is one of the world’s 10 most populous Catholic countries.
Pope Francis is aiming to visit Lebanon as soon as possible, to give consolation and hope to the people of a country that, while suffering much, gave refuge to vast numbers of Syrian refugees in recent years but who are now experiencing severe humanitarian and economic crises.
Francis has tentative plans to visit South Sudan with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, probably in mid-2022 to foster reconciliation between warring ethnic factions.
He also wants to strengthen relations between Christians and Muslims in the country. Lebanon is the only Arab nation with a large Christian population where Muslims and Christians jointly govern. However, he cannot visit until there is a stable, functioning government in the country.
Francis also intends to visit Malta in the coming year, but only after the country’s elections have taken place, which probably means after mid-April.
Vatican sources, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the subject, told America that the pope is likely to visit Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Timor Leste, with a stopover in Singapore, in the second half of 2022. He had planned to visit these countries in 2020, but the trip had to be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He now feels he owes them a visit and hopes to do so next year. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, while Timor Leste—which occupies roughly half of an island in between Indonesia and Australia—is the most Catholic country in Asia, per capita.
In the summer, the pope could also visit Santiago de Compostela in Spain for the conclusion of the Holy Year, which was meant to have ended in 2021 but which Francis extended to 2022 because of the pandemic.
In the summer, the pope could also visit Santiago de Compostela in Spain for the conclusion of the Holy Year.
Francis has also indicated that he would like to visit Hungary. During his visit to Budapest in September for the International Eucharistic Congress, he promised the Hungarian president and prime minister that he would return in 2022 or 2023. Vatican sources say this visit could now take place in 2022. That visit could perhaps create the opportunity for a second face-to-face meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the Pannonhalma Archabbey, the Benedictine monastery in Hungary founded in 996 C.E. that has become an ecumenical focal point. (Their first meeting, the first-ever between a bishop of Rome and a patriarch of Moscow, took place in Havana, Cuba, in 2016.)
Meanwhile, in the western hemisphere, Pope Francis was meant to visit Canada on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation in 2022. But a visit of several representatives of Indigenous peoples to the Vatican which had been slated for December 2021 was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The trip has not yet been rescheduled, suggesting that the pope is more likely to visit Canada in 2023.
Likewise, Pope Francis’ visit to India is likely to take place in early 2023, not in 2022, as Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told America in a recent interview.
The Holy See and China signed a provisional agreement on Sept. 22, 2018, in Beijing, on the appointment of bishops in mainland China, which was set to be reviewed after two years. The two sides agreed to renew it again in October 2020 for another two years. When that extension ends in October 2022, Pope Francis will have to decide how to proceed, given that the fruits from the provisional agreement have been less than the Vatican had hoped for.
Pope blesses Macau Catholic university on silver jubilee.
8th December 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
Pope blesses Macau Catholic university on silver jubilee
University of St. Joseph is one of four universities in the former Portuguese colony
UCA News reporter
Pope Francis has sent his special blessings and appreciations to the sole Catholic university in Macau on its 25th anniversary.
Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau Diocese delivered the papal decree to Father Stephen Morgan, the rector of the University of St. Joseph (USJ), during the anniversary ceremony on Dec. 2, reports Jornal O-Clarim, the Portuguese-language Catholic weekly of Macau.
While delivering the papal decree with blessings and appreciations, Bishop Lee said he hopes USJ will continue to maintain its international reputation in academic excellence in the short and long term.
“I think the most important thing is for the university to be able to maintain its mission as a platform open to all nationalities, all races and all faiths so that students can get to know China and Chinese culture," said the prelate, who has been chancellor of the university since 2017.
He expressed hope that the university becomes "a platform where Chinese and Western culture can meet, can understand each other and learn from each other."
The jubilee event in the former Portuguese colony came just two days before the ordination of Jesuit Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan in politically troubled Hong Kong, a former British colony.
The 40-minute jubilee ceremony featured an installation of a statue of Chinese philosopher Confucius as well as murals of other local personalities who contributed to the growth of USJ over the past 25 years.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong, who represented Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng of Macau Special Administrative Region, hailed the university as the pride of Macau.
“In the past 25 years, the University of St. Joseph has managed to assert itself as a university for Macau and at the service of Macau,” she said.
She also thanked USJ for training people with quality education.
Founded in 1996, USJ operates under the Diocese of Macau and is affiliated to the Catholic University of Portugal. It is one of four universities in Macau but until September it was barred from accepting students from mainland China.
Thanks to years of academic excellence and collaboration with leading universities in the mainland, USJ received permission from the central government to enroll students from the mainland for the first time in its 25-year history.
It can recruit students from the mainland for postgraduate programs in architecture, business administration, information systems and science starting from the current academic year.
Father Morgan insisted that the university's mission has remained the same since its foundation.
“Our goals remain the same — to continue to grow steadily in order to ensure a high-quality international experience for our students in a Catholic atmosphere,” Father Morgan said.
“With regard to students on the continent, we hope to be able to demonstrate as much as possible to the Chinese authorities that the University of St. Joseph is guided by witness and service, and is committed to something that motivates us all: peace and harmony, wisdom and education.”
Macau, a gambling and gaming hub, was under Portuguese rule from 1557 to 1999. It is now an autonomous territory of China with an estimated population of about 700,000.
Catholicism in Macau bears the legacy of the Portuguese era. About 30,000 Catholics live in nine parishes of Macau Diocese.
1. The Vatican-China pact and Taiwan's diplomatic isolation.
11th November 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
The Vatican-China pact and Taiwan's diplomatic isolation
Diplomatic circles see the newfound love between Rome and Beijing as a hint of a shift in relations
By: Ben Joseph
As Beijing continues to put pressure on Taiwan to reunify with mainland China, tension is mounting in the region. This challenges the Vatican’s bilateral relations with Taiwan and with communist China, where it has been working out an operational understanding without having any formal diplomatic ties.
Of the 15 nations that recognize Taiwan, the Vatican is the most crucial as it remains the only European land to have such a link with the self-ruled island. The Holy See and China's communist government have inched closer with the 2018 pact on appointing bishops. Their bonhomie has Taiwan worried. Is China planning a bloodless coup across the Taiwan Strait?
Though Pope Francis described the secret deal at the time as “not political but pastoral,” for Taiwan the not-yet-published Vatican-China pact goes much beyond the appointment of bishops. Taiwan sees it as a path for the Vatican to have diplomatic ties with China, which refuses to have ties with countries recognizing Taiwan.
The stakes are very high for the Vatican in mainland China. With the secret pact, it got breathing space and managed to get a say in the affairs of the 12 million Catholics among the Asian country's 1.4 billion people after five decades.
Now the national church in China and its bishops are considered in communion with the Catholic Church — no mean achievement going by Vatican norms.
It was not a cakewalk for the Chinese national church before the pact. Catholics were divided into the patriotic church and the underground church, which refuses to accept the leadership of the state.
The bishops of the Vatican-appointed underground church and their followers were persecuted for their faith and allegiance to the pope. They were spied on, their churches were destroyed and priests were placed under house arrest, beaten and made to disappear.
Though communists suppressed all unfriendly institutions and beliefs to the godless doctrine after coming to power in 1949, the regime failed miserably when it came to the Catholic Church. The underground church managed to thrive in the communist country with tacit support from the Vatican.
Relations have improved considerably between the two since 2018 after the Chinese government recognized some of the bishops of the underground church and began appointing new bishops in consultation with the Vatican. Neither the Vatican nor China has appointed any bishop independently in the past three years.
Diplomatic circles see the newfound love between the Vatican and Beijing as a hint of possible substantial shift that may see the Vatican establishing a permanent diplomatic mission in Beijing.
The Chinese government has been successful in steadily reducing the list of nations that formally recognize Taiwan from 32 in 2000 to 15 at the end of 2020. Most of them withdrew from the alliance after Chinese diplomatic and economic outreach widened in the last two decades.
As the second-largest economy in the world and Asia’s sole superpower, China is happy to use to a growing array of carrots and sticks to erode Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances. The Solomon Islands shifted its recognition in 2019 to China with its prime minister stating that the country prefers a communist China over an "uncertain" Taiwan. Its government expressed interest in joining the Belt and Road Initiative, touted to be the world’s largest infrastructure project spearheaded by China and costing up to US$8 trillion.
The Vatican stretched its systems beyond limits to have the historic pact, which reportedly agrees that the state-controlled church grooms and handpicks new bishop nominees but appoints them only if the Vatican approves. It is something not envisaged in the Church’s canon law.
The two-year pact started ad experimentum was renewed by both parties in October 2020 for another two years. On its part, China gained more international prestige with the renewal.
Reports show many dioceses in China are without bishops and the Vatican wants the election, nomination and appointment of bishops and consolidation of their diocesan territories completed before October 2022, when the experimental period ends.
Nine out of 15 nations that recognize Taiwan also house a significant Catholic population, and an estimated 12 million Catholics on the Chinese mainland add to the 1.3 billion Catholic population worldwide.
The Vatican is Taiwan’s only remaining diplomatic partner in Europe, giving it vital access and influence. Despite not being a member of the EU, the Vatican is integrated with the pan-European trade bloc politically and culturally.
Bereft of formal recognition from other nations, Taiwan would be left with little diplomatic ammunition and options to generate external resistance to take on the China narrative that "reunification is an internal matter."
China views any foreign intervention in Taiwan as interference in its domestic affairs. Unification of Taiwan has remained a priority for China, which has trained and equipped its People’s Liberation Army to act on potential reunification scenarios.
After the recent crackdown in Hong Kong and Beijing’s apparent dislike for the "one country, two systems" framework, the possibility of reunifying Taiwan is increasingly in the pipeline.
The Vatican was tight-lipped when a sweeping security law was imposed in Hong Kong by China in June 2020 by side-stepping Hong Kong’s own legislature. The move was seen as a blow to the "one country, two systems" norm signed between Britain and China while handing over the territory in 1997. Maybe the Vatican-China pact applies to Hong Kong as well.
Among Taiwan’s vital friends, the US, which is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, continues to block Beijing’s decades-old nationalist expansion project. However, the US also follows a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would come to Taiwan’s rescue in the event of a Chinese takeover.
As military options for unification are fraught with danger of global scale, China may explore the possibility of staging a bloodless coup, hoping the Vatican will back it.
The Vatican has not said anything so far on the increasing tension between Taiwan and China. Does the secret Vatican-China pact apply to Taiwan as well?
* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
1. Vatican should talk to China — but not at any price
2. Pope wants to continue dialogue with China despite challenges.
Vatican should talk to China — but not at any price
3rd September 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
Rights & Wrongs - by Benedict Rogers
Vatican should talk to China — but not at any price
Any dialogue with Beijing must include a robust focus on human rights and a fierce defense of religious freedom and human dignity
Pope Francis’ commitment to continued dialogue with China, expressed in an interview broadcast on Sept. 1, is in many ways right and admirable. The spirit of dialogue, of constant striving to seek reconciliation and peace, no matter how challenging and arduous the path, is and always has been part of the spirit of the Catholic Church.
When Pope Francis says that “China is not easy, but I am convinced that we should not give up dialogue. You can be deceived in dialogue, you can make mistakes, all that ... but it is the way. Closed-mindedness is never the way,” I wholeheartedly agree. I never want to be closed-minded. That is the characteristic of our interlocutors in the Beijing regime and their appeasers.
The question for me is never whether to try to talk with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. A government — however brutal, repressive, aggressive and criminal in its conduct — that rules 1.4 billion people and is one of the world’s two major economic, political and military powers is not one we can simply ignore or isolate. Even in the worst days of the Cold War, after all, we still talked to the Soviet Union.
The question is not whether to talk but about the nature of the dialogue. What are the topics of conversation? What are the objectives? And on whose terms is the dialogue held?
Dialogue for the sake of conversation serves no ethical, moral or practical purpose. Dialogue that is one way, or in which we are silent about our grave concerns about injustice, or where we end up kowtowing, appeasing or unwittingly complicit with evil, is immoral.
So, it depends on what kind of dialogue we seek. It also depends on what timeframe is envisaged.
It would be foolhardy to impose some artificial dates, but at the same time if it is left perpetually open-ended, then the chances are it’s a propaganda coup for Beijing and an immoral sellout for Rome. Those involved in shaping the dialogue need to ask themselves: what are the red lines and the deadlines?
Let’s come back to the heart of the issue: dialogue about what, with whom and on what terms?
My biggest concern about the Vatican’s approach to the Chinese regime so far is that it appears to have secured the pope’s silence, at least in public, on some of the gravest injustices of our time.
Almost every Sunday when Pope Francis prays the Angelus from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square, he speaks about and prays for at least one area of conflict, injustice, persecution and repression in the world or another — the Middle East, the Rohingya, Yemen — and rightly so.
Yet not once has he mentioned the Uyghurs, arguably facing the world’s most contemporary genocide, or the dramatic dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms, or Tibet, or the persecution of Falun Gong and the barbaric practice of forced organ harvesting, found by an independent tribunal two years ago to be crimes against humanity, or the intense persecution of Christians in China, the most severe crackdown on the faith since the Cultural Revolution.
Apart from a very brief, cursory reference to the Uyghurs in his beautiful book Let Us Dream, Pope Francis has not mentioned the mass atrocities in China’s Xinjiang region — a million — perhaps three million — Uyghurs in concentration camps, many more subjected to slave labor, forced sterilization, forced abortions, sexual violence and religious persecution. And Rome stays silent?
The previous and current US administrations, as well as the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Lithuania, have called it a genocide, yet the pope says nothing. How come?
In contrast to all his predecessors, Pope Francis has not met the Dalai Lama. He reportedly declined a request by Hong Kong’s courageous and outspoken 89-year-old bishop emeritus, Cardinal Joseph Zen, for a half-hour meeting on his last visit to Rome. And to my knowledge he has not yet met any Uyghurs.
If dialogue with the regime in Beijing is to have any value, it must be about these grave concerns: genocide, crimes against humanity, religious freedom and human dignity. If the price for discussing these issues behind closed doors is silence on the part of the Holy Father in public, in my view that’s too high a price, especially if the timeframe is open-ended.
For a limited period, public silence may be acceptable if it is to allow for behind-the-scenes robust dialogue to take effect. But that cannot be indefinite, for we know from decades of experience that quiet private diplomacy with the Chinese regime by itself yields no results.
Of equal importance, dialogue with the regime should not preclude dialogue with the peoples of China. If the Vatican’s dialogue with the CCP is to be well informed, the pope should at the same time meet with representatives of those the CCP is persecuting so brutally: starting with the Dalai Lama, Cardinal Zen and a Uyghur delegation, and continuing to regular meetings with exiled Chinese Christians, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hong Kongers. If Beijing says the price for continued dialogue is exclusivity, then again, that’s too high a price.
I love Pope Francis and deeply appreciate his emphasis on mercy that has been such a prevailing theme in his papacy. But his expressed admiration for Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, one of the architects of Rome’s “Ostpolitik” approach to the Soviet Union and a pioneer of engagement with Beijing, is alarming.
A better example of dialogue, I would venture to suggest, would be that of Pope St. John Paul II’s approach to the Soviets, which, combined with that of US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, did more to end the Cold War and bring freedom and human dignity to the peoples of Eastern Europe than anything Ostpolitik ever achieved.
They turbocharged the Helsinki Process approach established in 1975, which put human rights and security as twin priorities at the very center of dialogue, coupled with a position of strength morally, militarily and diplomatically.
If there’s to be any continued dialogue with Beijing — which I hope there will be — it must be with a robust focus on human rights, a fierce defense of religious freedom and human dignity, a moral outrage at mass atrocities, a constant voice of protest at the closure of one of Asia’s freest societies, Hong Kong, and an insistence that talks, worthwhile though they may be, cannot come at any price and must not be drawn out in perpetuity without any meaningful results.
Being prepared to talk with an oppressor is a worthy quality. But being prepared to walk away for the right reasons at the right time must also be part of the equation. And for the Church, justice, human rights and human dignity must always trump mere dialogue. Dialogue between the Church and China must be rooted in the example of Moses saying to Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” not Neville Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” declaration after meeting Adolf Hitler.
* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organisation CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and a board member of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign. He is the author of six books, and his faith journey is told in his book “From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church” (Gracewing, 2015). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
Pope wants to continue dialogue with China despite challenges
2nd September 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
Pope wants to continue dialogue with China despite challenges
Pope Francis describes Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, former Vatican secretary of state, as an inspirational figure
UCA News reporter
Pope Francis has defended the Vatican’s controversial deal with communist China as the progress of dialogue, saying the Church should move forward despite the chances of being deceived and making mistakes.
He was speaking in a rare 90-minute interview with COPE, the radio network owned by the Spanish bishops' conference, broadcast Sept. 1.
“China is not easy, but I am convinced that we should not give up dialogue. You can be deceived in dialogue, you can make mistakes, all that ... but it is the way. Closed-mindedness is never the way,” Pope Francis said.
The Vatican faced fierce criticism from underground Catholics in China, diplomats and church leaders when it signed the deal on bishop appointments in September 2018 for two years. Despite critics accusing the Vatican of surrendering itself to the Chinese government, the deal was renewed in 2020.
“Even when I was a layman and priest, I loved to show the way to the bishop; it is a temptation that I would even say is licit if it is done with goodwill,” Pope Francis said when asked if the moral authority of the Vatican suffered when it entered into an agreement with China..
The experimental deal reportedly agrees on a procedure for Catholic communities in China to choose their bishops, with the pope approving them before their ordinations and installations.
The appointment of bishops was a major hurdle in Vatican-China relations for decades. While the Vatican insisted on appointing bishops as the Church’s prerogative, the Chinese government saw it as interference by a foreign power in its internal affairs.
The deal, church observers say, ends a stalemate and could help to end the division in the Chinese Church, which started when China began appointing bishops on its own without papal approval.
Catholics following Vatican-appointed bishops were seen independently from those under state-run dioceses, resulting in two parallel churches.
Since 2018, at least five bishops have been appointed under the terms of the agreement, while the Vatican has recognized at least seven China-appointed bishops, including a bishop who died in 2018.
“What has been achieved so far in China was at least dialogue ... some concrete things like the appointment of new bishops, slowly ... But these are also steps that can be questionable and the results on one side or the other,” Pope Francis said.
He said a “key figure” who inspired him over China was Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state in the 1980s who attempted to re-establish links with the Chinese government.
The pope recalled that Cardinal Casaroli “was the man John XXIII commissioned to build bridges with Central Europe.”
“Sometimes having to talk in the open air or with the faucet open in difficult moments. Slowly, slowly, slowly, he [Cardinal Casaroli] was achieving reserves of diplomatic relations which in the end meant appointing new bishops and taking care of God’s faithful people,” he said.
“Today, somehow, we have to follow these paths of dialogue step by step in most conflict situations.”
He also said his experience “in dialogue with Islam, for example, with the Grand Imam al-Tayyeb was very positive in this, and I am very grateful to him.”
“But dialogue, always dialogue, or to be willing to dialogue. There is a very nice thing,” he said.
1. Pope prays for victims of devastating floods in China
27th July 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
China's provincial government has updated its
estimated death toll to 63, with five people missing
By: Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
After record rainfall in central China left dozens dead and forced more than one million people to relocate, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by the disaster.
After praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square on July 25, the pope commented on the torrential rains that triggered flash floods in the city of Zhengzhou and in Henan province.
"I pray for the victims and their families and express my closeness and solidarity with all those who are suffering due to this calamity," he said.
China's provincial government updated its estimated death toll on July 25 to 63 people, with five people still missing. Almost 9,000 homes had collapsed and more than 1.1 million people had been relocated after record rains started falling on July 20.
While the rains have stopped, some neighborhoods were still flooded and others were cut off from roads, requiring aid and supplies to be brought in by helicopter. Emergency workers were trying to close breaches along the river and gaps in the flood dikes while residents continued to clear away mud and debris, according to the Associated Press.
In Henan province, authorities are gradually clearing and reopening roads blocked with vehicles and debris.
Millions have been affected by the floods, with some trapped without fresh food or water for days and others lifted to safety in excavator buckets.
Henan emergency response official Li Changxun warned that the province would need to undertake large-scale cleaning and disinfecting to "ensure the disaster is not followed by an epidemic."
Photos published by state media and government social media accounts showed rescue workers continuing to shovel mud and remove uprooted trees across the province.
Torrential downpours dumped a year's rain in just three days on the hardest-hit city of Zhengzhou, where at least a dozen people died inside a subway train during rush hour after floodwater trapped passengers in their carriages.
China has suffered an annual flood season for millennia, but the record rainfall in Henan has prompted questions about how China's cities could be better prepared for freak weather events, which experts say are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.
Henan province is striated by rivers, dams and reservoirs, many constructed decades ago to manage the flow of floodwater and irrigate the agricultural region, but rapid urban sprawl has strained existing drainage systems.
1. Pope Francis meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken
28th June 2021
Pope Francis meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken
to discuss ‘hot button issues’ like the Middle East, the Holy Land and China
By: Gerard O’Connell
Pope Francis received the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony John Blinken, in a private audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace this morning, June 28, “for around 40 minutes in a cordial climate,” the Vatican stated afterwards.
Before the papal audience, Mr. Blinken had a 45-minute conversation with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, and with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for relations with states. Informed Vatican sources told America that during the meeting they “touched on all the hot button issues, including the situation in the Middle East, the Holy Land and China.” The time for their meeting was limited because of the tight schedule of all the participants involved, including the pope, a source said.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement on the secretary’s trip to Europe, which ends on June 29, that said he would meet with senior Holy See officials “to underscore our shared commitment to freedom of religion or faith and tackling the climate crisis.”
After the meeting, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said that Syria, Lebanon, Venezuela, Tigray, immigration and refugees were also discussed.
The Vatican issued a statement after Mr. Blinken’s visit but shared little information about the content of those conversations in the Apostolic Palace, except to say that during the conversation “Pope Francis recalled the visit he made [to the United States] in 2015 and expressed his affection for and attention to the people of the United States of America.”
Mr. Blinken is the second top official of the Biden administration to be received in private audience by Pope Francis this year. The first was the U.S. special envoy for climate, John Kerry, on May 15.
The visits of the two members of the U.S. administration to the pope are seen in Rome as the lead-up to the much-anticipated visit of President Biden, the second Catholic president of the United States, with Pope Francis. That visit is expected at the end of October, when the U.S. president visits Rome for the important meeting of the heads of the G20 states. The G20 summit brings together leaders of the world’s 20 chief economic powers. Mr. Biden and Pope Francis may also meet in Glasgow at the opening session of Cop26, the U.N-sponsored conference on climate change, in early November.
Pope Francis and Mr. Biden have already met three times—in 2013, 2015 and 2016—when Mr. Biden was vice president, and the chemistry between the two appears to be good. The relations between the Holy See and the Biden administration are much more positive and friendlier than with the previous U.S. administration.
The Holy See has welcomed the positive approach of the United States to many of the issues that are close to the pope’s heart, including climate change, concern for peace in the Middle East and in the Holy Land in particular and the need to combat Covid-19 and address the immigration question.
Top Vatican officials (who did not want to be named) have told America they do not share the apparent desire of some members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to consider denying Communion to President Biden and other Catholic politicians over the abortion question, as was evident from the letter sent by Cardinal Luis Ladaria to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S.C.C.B., shortly before the bishops’ virtual meeting this month.
Before his meeting with the pope, Mr. Blinken was given a private, early morning tour of the Apostolic Palace and the Sistine Chapel, where Francis was elected pope in the conclave of March 13, 2013.
Mr. Blinken came to Rome after visiting France and Germany and before traveling to southern Italy for a meeting with the foreign ministers of the G20 states at Matera and Bari.
The members of the G20 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. This time, however, in the clearest sign of rising geo-political tensions, China and Russia decided not to send their foreign ministers in person to the meeting, but they will participate virtually.
On the previous day in Rome, June 27, Mr. Blinken met the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid. It was the first top-level meeting between a representative of the new Israeli coalition government and the Biden administration and came at a time when discussions are underway in Vienna over the possibility of the United States rejoining the Iran nuclear treaty.
During his visit in Paris, Mr Blinken had expressed his hope of seeing the emergence of “conditions which may allow the relaunching of a peace process and the establishment of two states, Israel and Palestine.” He said: “I think the conditions are not there. We have to work on it. And that’s what we will do.” At the same time, he emphasized the importance of avoiding provocations in the Holy Land that could revive violence in the coming weeks and months.
After his visit to the Vatican, Mr. Blinken was scheduled to co-chair a meeting of the International Coalition against the Islamic State. The group was created in 2014 and involves over 80 countries, led by the United States. ISIS remains active in Syria and Iraq.
The State Department’s statement said that Mr. Blinken would also participate in a discussion of the crisis in Syria, focusing on humanitarian needs. He will also have bilateral meetings with President Sergio Mattarella of Italy and Foreign Minister Di Maio to underscore the important role of the U.S.-Italy partnership in addressing key global priorities.
In Bari and Matera, the secretary of state will attend the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting “to reinforce the U.S. commitment to multilateralism and discuss continued cooperation in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, and building back better with our global partners, with a focus on Africa.”
* Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent.
1. Pope calls on Catholics to accompany Church in China with fervent prayer.
2. Fined for hosting underground bishop's mass. The Sino-Vatican Agreement betrayed.
Pope calls on Catholics to accompany Church in China with fervent prayer.
At the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis
invites the faithful throughout the world to accompany Chinese Catholics in prayer as they prepare to celebrate the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, their national patron.
By: Christopher Wells
“Tomorrow, the Catholic faithful in China celebrate the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, the celestial patron of their great country,” Pope Francis noted in remarks following the Regina Coeli on Sunday.
The Holy Father recalled the great devotion of Chinese Catholics to “the Mother of the Lord [and] of the Church” at her sanctuary of Sheshan in Shanghai. Under the title of Our Lady of Sheshan, she “is assiduously invoked by Christian families in the trials and hopes of daily life.”
He added, “How good and how necessary it is that the members of a family and of a Christian community are ever more united in love and in faith! In this way, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, pastors and faithful can follow the example of the first disciples who, on the solemnity of Pentecost, were united in prayer with Mary as they awaited the Holy Spirit.”
The Pope invited all the faithful to accompany the Christian faithful in China, “dearest brothers and sisters, whom I hold in the depth of my heart,” with “fervent prayer.”
He prayed that the Holy Spirit, “the protagonist of the Church's mission in the world, guide them and help them to be bearers of the happy message, witnesses of goodness and charity, and builders of justice and peace in their country.”
A Day of Prayer for the Church in China
In 2007, Benedict XVI encouraged Catholics of the whole world to mark the Feast of Mary Help of Christians – May 24 – as a Day of Prayer for the Church in China. In a Letter to the Chinese faithful, he encouraged Chinese Catholics to the celebrate the day “by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible.”
On that same day, he said, “the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.”
The Closeness of the Universal Church
Last year, marking the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Pope Francis assured Chinese Catholics that “the universal Church, of which you are an integral part, shares your hopes and supports you in your trials. She accompanies you with prayer for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel might shine in you as the power of God for the salvation of those who believe.”
On that occasion, Pope Francis prayed that the Chinese faithful “might be strong in faith and steadfast in fraternal union, joyful witnesses, promoters of charity and hope, and good citizens.”
Agreement on the appointment of Bishops
In October of 2022, the Holy See and China’s communist government renewed a Provisional Agreement concerning the appointment of Bishops for the Church in China. The agreement is aimed primarily at “sustaining and promoting the proclamation of the Gospel in that land, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church,” according to L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City State.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office announcing the extension of the deal said, “The Holy See considers the initial application of the Agreement – which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value – to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the Parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”
Fined for hosting underground bishop's mass. The Sino-Vatican Agreement betrayed
27th April 2021
AsiaNews - www.asianews.it
By: Bernardo Cervellera
A Catholic from Zhejiang is fined for hosting Msgr. Shao Zhumin in his private chapel. The prelate, recognized by the Holy See, but not by the Party, is branded as an emissary of a "foreign institution". All attempts by the Party to eliminate pastors and unofficial communities, tearing up the premises of the Agreement between China and the Holy See.
Rome (AsiaNews) – An increasing number of unofficial bishops in China are being prevented from carrying out their ministry. Placed under house arrest or detained in other locations, isolated, fined or encumbered in their daily lives render any gathering between the bishops and their priests or faithful increasingly impossible.
The fact risks undermining the Sino-Vatican Agreement which, dealing only with the nominations of new bishops, left open the entire issue of unofficial prelates, recognized by the Holy See, but not by the Party.
Instead, since the provisional agreement was signed and renewed, there have been increasingly blatant and aggressive interventions against underground bishops and their ministry as if to eliminate them, betraying the premise of the stand-by provided for in the agreement.
The latest such incident occurred in Wangli (Cangnan County, Zhejiang). The area is within the diocese of Wenzhou, whose bishop - recognized by the Pope, but not by the Party - is Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin.
In Zhejiang, where the percentage of Christians exceeds 10%, some families have built private chapels on their property. On March 16, Mr. Huang Ruixun, 56, offered his chapel to Msgr. Shao Zhumin and about twenty faithful. As a result, he was sentenced to a fine of 200 thousand yuan (about 25510 euros). The charge: Mr. Huang hosted Msgr. Shao "for illegal religious activities, also providing him with lunch, a rest room, etc.".
The complaint by the county religious affairs office reminds us that "facilitating illegal religious activities" is against the new regulations on religious activities. The new regulations, launched a few months before the Agreement, in February 2018, in fact require that "regular" religious activities can only take place in places registered with the government.
The fact that the chapel offered by Mr. Huang is the equivalent of a private dwelling and as such has all the regular permits to be used as a private chapel. This has led many Chinese faithful to question whether praying in groups at home – which has become the norm during the pandemic - is an "illegal religious activity" that must be fined.
The charge also exposes another violation: "As the organizer of illegal activities was ordained by a foreign institution, this goes against the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Church in China".
This is the crux of the matter: Msgr. Shao Zhumin was nominated a bishop by the Pope ("foreign institution") and does not adhere to the principles of "independence, autonomy and self-management" of the Church in China, which according to the Party are necessary elements to carry out his ministry.
The new "Administrative measures for religious personnel" will be in force from 1 May. These require that every bishop or priest (or other religious figure in other faiths) respond to these criteria: "Love the motherland, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, support the socialist system, abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations and rules, practice the core values ??of socialism, adhere to the principle of independence and autonomous management of religion, and adhere to China's religious policy, maintaining unity national unity, ethnic unity, religious harmony and social stability "(art.3).
Bishop Shao Zhumin is one of the sweetest and meekest people you could wish to know. His failure to adhere to the principle of "independence, autonomy and self-management" is not a "terrorist" choice, but a Christian one, because he thinks that his ministry is always dependent on the Pope's Pietrine ministry.
Moreover, it is very curious that in the case of Msgr. Shao Zhumin, this bond with the pontiff is seen as a relationship with "a foreign institution". Instead, in the case of a new appointment of bishops wanted by the Party, the Pope's "last word" (as Francis himself said) is welcome and even (probably) explicitly stated in the Agreement.
In any case, the fine for offering hospitality in one's own home, "also providing lunch, a rest room, etc." appears to be a violation of the Chinese Constitution which preaches the right of every citizen to religious freedom.
As mentioned above, the continuous obstacles that are imposed on unofficial bishops are in fact a betrayal of the Agreement which provided for a status quo, until the issue is addressed by the Holy See and the Chinese government.
Instead, there are bishops under house arrest, such as Msgr. Jia Zhiguo, bishops who have been cut off from water, electricity and gas, such as Msgr. Guo Xijin, and now bishops who cannot be hosted by their faithful, such as Msgr. Shao Zhumin.
Then, there is another serious aspect for which the Agreement risks being betrayed.
In the past, official and unofficial bishops met together and the underground communities were offered the use of churches for celebrations. With the new regulations and above all with the new measures, this hospitality becomes risky and "illegal": it creates a greater division between official and underground communities, making the reconciliation, so desired by Pope Francis, even more distant.
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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