China Agreement is for Churches to enjoy more freedom

According to the Vatican Secretary of State, the reason for this historic agreement after decades of patient negotiations and crises: a normal life for the community of believers in communion with the Pope.

Sep 28, 2018

By Andrea Tornielli
“The objective of the Holy See is a pastoral one, ... or help to create the condition, of greater freedom, autonomy and organisation, ... (for local) Catholic churches ...” With these words, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State and patient relationship builder between China and the Catholic Church during the last few pontificates, issued a comment about the news of the agreement signed in Beijing today, 22 September 2018.

Earlier, in April last the Cardinal Secretary of State shared the purposes of the provisional agreement, which will be assessed over the next few years. He said, “It is fundamental that the Church be united, that the official community, subject to the control of the government, and the so-called underground community — which today each walk their own path — be united. Already Benedict XVI in his Letter to Chinese Catholics had said that the purpose of all work in China must be that of communion between the two communities, and of communion of the whole Chinese Church with the Pope.”

He also spoke about the Chinese Church, and pointed out the strictly Church-specific purpose of the negotiations. “...the main purpose of the Holy See in the ongoing dialogue,” said the Cardinal, “is precisely that of safeguarding communion within the Church, in the wake of genuine Tradition and constant ecclesiastical discipline. In China there are not two Churches, but two communities of faithful called to follow a gradual path of reconciliation towards unity. It is not, therefore, a matter of maintaining a perennial conflict between opposing principles and structures, but of finding realistic pastoral solutions that allow Catholics to live their faith and to continue together the work of evangelisation in the specific Chinese context.”

“The Holy See knows and shares the serious sufferings endured by many Catholics in China and their generous witness to the Gospel,” continued the Secretary of State. “...many problems [remain] for the life of the Church and that they cannot all be solved together.

But, in this context, the question of the appointment of Bishops is crucial. On the other hand, we cannot forget that the freedom of the Church and the appointment of Bishops have always been recurring themes in the relations between the Holy See and the States.

Certainly, the path started with China through the current contacts is gradual and still exposed to many unforeseen events, as well as new possible emergencies. No one can say in conscience that they have perfect solutions for all problems. Time and patience are needed to heal the many personal wounds inflicted on each other within the communities.

Unfortunately, it is certain that there will still be misunderstandings, fatigue and suffering to be faced. But we all have confidence that, once the issue of the Episcopal appointments has been adequately considered, the remaining difficulties should no longer be such as to prevent Chinese Catholics from living in communion with each other and with the Pope.” --Vatican Insider

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