Cardinal Parolin: If there was an opening, Pope Francis would go to China

At Rome's Pontifical Urban University for the presentation of the work dedicated to Cardinal Celso Costantini and China, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, discusses continued dialogue with China and the Pope's appreciation for the Chinese people.

Jun 21, 2024

Cardinal Pietro Parolin at Rome's Pontifical Urban University (foto © Teresa Tseng Kuang Yi)


By Salvatore Cernuzio
The timing at the moment seems premature, but "if there were openness on the part of the Chinese, the Pope would also go immediately" to China, a land for which he has always shown great appreciation and esteem for its people, history and its culture.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, reiterated Pope Francis' never-hidden desire to one day visit the great and "noble" Asian country.

The Cardinal's comments were made Thursday afternoon, 20 June, at Rome's Pontifical Urban University at the presentation of the book "Cardinal Celso Costantini and China - Constructor of a 'bridge' between the East and West-"

The volume was edited by Msgr. Bruno Fabio Pighin, an Italian historian and Episcopal Delegate in the postulation of the cause of beatification and canonisation of Cardinal Celso Costantini (1876-1958), the first Apostolic Delegate to China, and published in Italian by Marcianum Press.

Once again, a month after the conference held at the Urbaniana for the 100th anniversary of the Concilium Sinense, which Cardinal Costantini inspired, promoted and organized, Cardinal Parolin found himself evoking the figure of the First Apostolic Delegate to China who laid the foundations for a dialogue, of which one of the fruits, after decades, can be considered the signing of the Agreement with the Holy See on the appointments of Bishops. That agreement was signed for the first time in 2018 and then renewed twice in 2020 and 2022.

The Agreement on the Appointments of Bishops will be renewed at the end of the year
Cardinal Parolin recalled that Agreement in his brief conversation with journalists on the sidelines of the presentation.

"With China, we are dialoguing as we have been for some time. We are trying to find the best procedures also for the application of the Agreement signed at the time and which will be renewed at the end of this year," he said in response to reporters' questions.

The Pope's esteem for the Chinese people
The Pope's thoughts returned once again to China yesterday, at the end of his weekly General Audience. When greeting the association "Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini," he took the opportunity to send a greeting "to the dear Chinese people."

"We always pray for this noble people, so courageous, who have such a beautiful culture," Pope Francis said.

"The Pope," Cardinal Parolin commented, "has a great appreciation indeed and does not miss an opportunity to express it towards the Chinese people and the Chinese nation. Perhaps it is because he is a Jesuit, so he has all the heritage of the past... Certainly these are all steps that help to understand each other more and more, to get closer and closer. Let us hope that this path can lead to a positive conclusion'.

A possible Pope's trip to China
When asked about the possibility of a Papal Visit to China, which would mark the first ever Apostolic Journey to the Asian nation, the Cardinal responded with caution.

"Certainly the Pope is willing to go to China, indeed he wishes to go to China," he said, noting, "It does not seem to me that, so far, there are the conditions for this wish of the Pope to come to fruition."

"China is close to our hearts"
Cardinal Parolin then reiterated his love for China in his speech in the University's Aula Magna.

"We love and admire China, its people, its culture, its traditions, the effort it is currently making...," he said. "Truly China is close to our hearts, close to the hearts of Pope Francis and his collaborators."

The Method of Costantini
At the event, the Vatican Secretary of State recalled Cardinal Costantini.

Specifically, he offered anecdotes, such as when the Apostolic Delegate went to Pope Pius XII in 1946 to ask for the name of a Chinese Bishop to be included in the Consistory for 32 new Cardinals, among whom his name also featured, and praising the Cardinal's efforts, works and sacrifices to "spread the light of the Gospel in China" and, above all, to promote an inculturated Church.

After all, it was Cardinal Costantini who insisted on the Concilium Sinense in Shanghai in 1924, which was a prophetic inspiration for the Second Vatican Council, and which laid the foundations for a Chinese Church that would grow to consist of 23 Bishops in 1963, despite opposition from many missionary institutes in China.

"They traced the line of Apostolic Succession for the current Bishops," Cardinal Parolin said.

Chinese bishops in communion with the Church of Peter
The "Method of Costantini" in relations between the Holy See and Asia's largest State is today "the direction also followed by Pope Francis," said the Secretary of State. This likewise traces back to Benedict XVI's 2007 'Letter to Chinese Catholics' and concretised with the "provisional" Agreement signed in Beijing in 2018 for the appointments of Bishops.

Where 'the qualification of provisional,' the Cardinal stressed, 'indicates that it is a starting point."

Confirmed twice in recent years, it has found an important implementation in concrete cases."

Hope remains
"The positive developments registered so far," he observed, "give us hope that more and greater ones will follow."

"As a result of the Agreement, all the Bishops in the land of Confucius are in full communion with the Church of Peter."

Hence, there remains the hope that there will be the continuation of "the dialogue and the process initiated by Chinese Catholics to foster greater concord under the guidance of their pastors, in full communion with the Pope who has given so much proof of his love for that great people."--Vatican News

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