The Vatican and Catholic Church is appealing to the International Community to help respond to the “new threat” and “new bomb” in Syria.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed this to ZENIT when its Senior Vatican Correspondent asked him about Syria.
Cardinal Parolin had spoken at the Pontifical University Antonianum, or the Pontifical University of St. Anthony, in Rome for the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, Oct. 21, 2020 at 9:30 am, at the solemn inauguaration of its 2020 academic year.
Organized by the Franciscan pontifical university in Central Rome, the private event took place, without public, in a large auditorium in full compliance with anti-COVID 19 rules and provisions. Also giving interventions at the event moderated by TV2000 journalist Fabio Bolzetta, were the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson; President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch; the Rector of the Antonianum, Br. Agustín Hernández Vidales, OFM, and Fr. Michael Anthony Perry, the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor.
Addressing the Vatican Secretary of State, ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent recalled that the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari met last week with members of the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps in the Vatican, and that Cardinal Parolin introduced the Cardinal to the diplomats, while decrying “the litany of horrors” still plaguing the Middle Eastern country. Given this, ZENIT asked him what response does the Vatican seek from the tormented nation, especially in the wake of having organized this encounter with the ambassadors.
“Cardinal Zenari illustrated very strongly this new threat to Syria,” Cardinal Parolin responded, lamenting: “the violence has not ceased entirely.” He lamented that in the South and several other parts of the country, “combat continues.”
“Cardinal Zenari said that there is another bomb,” Cardinal Parolin noted, “which is the bomb of poverty that risks impoverishing even more the population and leaving it in conditions of extreme poverty.
“First of all, we must address this question,” the Vatican’s Secretary of State said, adding: “I hope Cardinal’s appeal, heard and received by all the Ambassadors present in the Holy See, who will report it to their respective governments to sensitize them on the question, will find a common answer in the International Community.”
The Vatican Secretary of State confirmed to journalists asking about the Provisional Agreement expiring between the China and the Holy See, that it would be renewed. The Vatican announced the deal’s renewal this morning in a communique 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,” it said, “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.”
The Holy See, the statement concluded, “intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”
Wish for Church in China — Eventual Instrument of Evangelization for Chinese Society
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.”
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.”
No Talk of Diplomatic Relations for Time Being
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 or foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Agreement is concerned with the situation of the Church, 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.”
From discussing Syria and China, the next questions turned to the Vatican, with new details emerging these days on financial affairs, which the Secretary of State had once described as “opaque.” Journalists asked about the recent financial scandals concerning former Substitute of the Secretary of State and former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who Pope Francis has removed from his post, along with his rights and privileges as cardinal. Journalists said there is talk of an imminent trial and asked if dates were set.
“No, I’m not aware of fixed dates for an eventual trial,” stated Cardinal Parolin, adding: “I imagine that the investigations will come to a conclusion and that, at that point, on the basis of the elements gathered over this long time, the Promoter of Justice will make his decisions. The thing remains naturally reserved; we will know it when the Promoter of Justice and his deputies disclose it.
When asked whether Cardinal Becciu will be tried, Cardinal Parolin said he did not know. When a journalist questioned if he believes such news can cause a disorientation of the faithful, he replied: “Yes, and I live this personally with great suffering. I think that what is happening, beyond the responsibilities that will also be established by the judicial investigation, cannot but create much disorientation among the faithful.
“However,” he continued, “I would also like to add that — and I don’t know if it’s a Chinese proverb to say it — that it seems to me that a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows. The forest grows in the Church, in the sense that there is so much good that the Church does in her dealings with men and perhaps we should not concentrate only on the evil that, unfortunately, exists, as it does in every human reality.”
The last question recalled that Pope Francis changed partially the composition of IOR’s Commission of Cardinals. The journalist pointed out that Cardinal Parolin is no longer part of it and asked whether the decision were linked to the financial affair.
“It is a normal rotation,” Cardinal Parolin responded, noting: “The Holy Father believes the Cardinals can carry out this task. In so far as I know, it’s certainly not linked to all the economic affairs in the Vatican.”