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Vatican signs ‘provisional agreement’ with China on appointment of bishops

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

VATICAN CITY, September 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Holy See today signed a “provisional agreement” with the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of Bishops, the Vatican has announced. As part of the “comprehensive deal,” Pope Francis has decided “to readmit to full ecclesial communion the remaining ‘official’ Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate.”

However, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen has recently called the expected deal with atheist Communist China a “complete surrender” that amounts to the Pope and high-ranking Vatican officials “giving the flock into the mouths of wolves.”  

In a statement released by the Holy See Press Office at 12:00 noon in Rome, the Vatican said the provisional accord was signed in Beijing, during a meeting between Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and H.E. Mr. Wang Chao, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, respectively the heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations. 

“During that meeting, the two representatives signed a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops,” the Vatican statement reads.

The Holy See described the Provisional Agreement as “the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement." They said it "has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application.”

According to the statement, the agreement “concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level.”

“The shared hope is that this agreement may favor a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world,” the Vatican statement said.

The Vatican had been expected to enter into a deal with China by the end of September, according to reports.

In a briefing note (see below) issued at 1:30pm local time in Rome, the Vatican said that Pope Francis has decided to readmit nine government allied bishops into full ecclesial communion in the hope that, “with these decisions, a process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.”

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, one of the deal’s chief negotiators, also issued a statement, saying today’s agreement is “of great importance, especially for the life of the Church in China, for the dialogue between the Holy See and the Authorities of that country and also for the promotion of a horizon of peace in this present times in which we experience so many tensions at international level.”

Cardinal Parolin continued: 

The objective of the Holy See is a pastoral one: the Holy See intends just to create the condition, or to help to create the condition, of a greater freedom, autonomy and organization, in order that the Catholic Church can dedicate itself to the mission of announcing the Gospel and also to contribute to the wellbeing and to the spiritual and material prosperity and harmony of the country, of every person and of the world as a whole.

Today, he added, “for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter. And Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People.”

The Vatican Secretary of State said “what is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities. And we believe – we hope, we hope – that the Agreement will be an instrument just for these objectives, for these aims, with the cooperation of all.”

In comments following this morning’s news, Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said of the agreement: “This is not the end of a process. It’s the beginning. This has been about dialogue, patient listening on both sides even when people come from very different standpoints.” 

“The objective of the accord is not political but pastoral, allowing the faithful to have bishops who are in communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities,” he added.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who has been a fierce critic of a deal with China, on Thursday accused Parolin of an “incredible betrayal” of the Church in China, and said he should resign. 

“They’re giving the flock into the mouths of wolves,” Cardinal Zen said, regarding the pending diplomatic agreement between the Vatican and Communist Beijing.  

“The consequences will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the church in China but for the whole Church because it damages the credibility,” he added.

Zen predicted that half of the underground Church might accept the deal, but he voiced his concern that many Catholics of the “underground” Church would reject the agreement and “do something irrational, they may make rebellion.” 

Given Beijing’s record on human rights, such “rebellion” could risk meeting with a violent goverment crackdown. In recent months, the Communist Party in China has sought to tighten control on religion, raiding churches and youth summer camps, burning bibles, and tearing down crosses.

Today’s announcement comes as Pope Francis makes a three-day apostolic visit to the Baltic States.

The Pope and other high-ranking Vatican officials have rejected criticism that the Holy See may be selling out the “underground Church” to Beijing’s communist government.

Zen said on Thursday that he believed any deal with atheist communist China would deal a significant blow to Pope Francis’ credibility, the South China Post reported.

“It’s a complete surrender. It’s a betrayal [of our faith]. I have no other words,” he said. 

The Vatican has not yet released the text of the full agreement. Many questions therefore still remain, including what specific role the Chinese Communist authorities will have in choosing Catholic Bishops, and the effect today’s decision will have on Catholics of the Church’s Eastern rites, whose families were imprisoned, suffered and died under Soviet Communist oppression.

Here below is the full texts of today’s statements from the Vatican.

Communique concerning the signing of a Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of Bishops

Today, 22nd September 2018, within the framework of the contacts between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China that have been underway for some time in order to discuss Church matters of common interest and to promote further understanding, a meeting was held in Beijing between Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and H.E. Mr. Wang Chao, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, respectively heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations. 

During that meeting, the two representatives signed a Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops. 

The above-mentioned Provisional Agreement, which is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application. It concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level. 

The shared hope is that this agreement may favour a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world. 

Briefing Note about the Catholic Church in China, courtesy of the Vatican Press Office

With a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China, the Holy Father Pope Francis has decided to readmit to full ecclesial communion the remaining “official” Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate: H.E. Mgr Joseph Guo Jincai, H.E. Mgr Joseph Huang Bingzhang, H.E. Mgr Paul Lei Shiyin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Liu Xinhong, H.E. Mgr Joseph Ma Yinglin, H.E. Mgr Joseph Yue Fusheng, H.E. Mgr Vincent Zhan Silu and H.E. Mgr Anthony Tu Shihua, OFM (who, before his death on 4th January 2017, had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See).

Pope Francis hopes that, with these decisions, a new process may begin that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics. 

The Catholic Community in China is called to live a more fraternal collaboration, in order to promote with renewed commitment the proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, the Church exists to give witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and salvific love of the Father.

22nd September 2018

Statement by Cardinal Parolin on the signing of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China concerning the nomination of Bishops

The signing of a Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China concerning the appointment of Bishops is of great importance, especially for the life of the Church in China, for the dialogue between the Holy See and the Authorities of that country and also for the promotion of a horizon of peace in this present times in which we experience so many tensions at international level.

The objective of the Holy See is a pastoral one: the Holy See intends just to create the condition, or to help to create the condition, of a greater freedom, autonomy and organization, in order that the Catholic Church can dedicate itself to the mission of announcing the Gospel and also to contribute to the wellbeing and to the spiritual and material prosperity and harmony of the country, of every person and of the world as a whole.

And today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter. And Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People. What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities. And we believe – we hope, we hope – that the Agreement will be an instrument just for these objectives, for these aims, with the cooperation of all.

To the Catholic Community in China – the Bishops, priests, religious and faithful – the Pope entrusts, above all, the commitment to make concrete fraternal gestures of reconciliation among themselves, and so to overcome past misunderstandings, past tensions, even the recent ones. In this way they can really contribute, and they will be able to perform the duty of the Church which is the announcement of the Gospel and, at the same time, to contribute to the growth, the spiritual and material growth, of their country and to peace and reconciliation in the world.

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