It is official: the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and China has been renewed.
Today, Oct. 22, the Holy See issued a communiqué on the extension of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops.
“Upon the expiration of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops, which was signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018 and took effect one month later,” it began, “the two Parties have agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years.”
“The Holy See,” the statement concluded, “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.”
Cardinal Parolin spoke to ZENIT English and other journalists yesterday about the agreement, also confirming to them today’s renewal.
While reflecting on the agreement, a reporter asked: “Do you have a wish for the Chinese Church?”
“My wish,” Cardinal Parolin said, “is that the Chinese Church rediscover, thanks also to this agreement, her unity and through this unity can become an instrument of evangelization, hence of proclamation of the Gospel in the Chinese society and of the genuine development of all its inhabitants.”
Asked whether he is satisfied with the results of the Agreement in the last two years, he noted: “If we look at the Agreement, I believe so, we can be content. We hope there can be a better and continuous functioning of the terms of the Agreement.”
“Then there are so many other problems,” he underscored, “that the Agreement did not intend to resolve. We stress this very much: don’t think that the Agreement can resolve all the problems that exist in China.”
— ZenitEnglish (@zenitenglish) October 22, 2020
When one pointed out the continued persecution of religion in the Asian superpower, the Cardinal replied: “But, persecutions . . . It’s necessary to use the words correctly. There are rules that are imposed and that concern all religions, and of course they also concern the Catholic Church.”
One asked whether the Agreement anticipates a future re-establishment of diplomatic relations. “For the moment,” he clearly stated, “there is no talk of diplomatic relations; we are concentrated on the Church. This is another point on which we would like to insist.”
“The Agreement,” he said, “has not resolved all the problems and difficulties that exist and that we hope to address with dialogue, because the Agreement is not concerned with diplomatic relations and doesn’t foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Agreement is concerned with the situation of the Church, on a specific point, which is the appointment of bishops.”
“The objective is the unity of the Church; we have had important results, such as the fact that all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Pope. There are no more illegitimate Bishops; this seems to me to be a notable step forward. We will try to start again from here and then, step by step, rediscover a normalization of the Church in China.”
Cardinal Parolin also spoke to ZENIT English at the private event, titled “Advancing and Defending Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy,” organized by the US Embassy to the Holy See on, Sept. 30, 2020, asking him whether the Vatican’s motivation to continue with the agreement was to eventually lead to better religious freedom in the Asian country.
“We are for the policy of small steps, you know it well, the policy of small steps,” he began. “And we believe that every result, even if not striking or inconspicuous, or which at first does not seem to give great results, is however a step forward, towards the affirmation of greater religious freedom,” he said.