Andrea Tornielli. Editorial Director of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication proposed, under the title “A Path for the Good of the Church,” a decoding of the Holy See’s action in favour of the Church’s unity in Continental China, recalled by Pope Francis in his annual address to the Diplomatic Corps on Monday, January 7, 2019.
In fact, Pope Francis stressed there the objectives of the Provisional Agreement, signed last September 22, between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China. Tornielli sees in it “a first fundamental historic step of a path that isn’t concluded and which will still require time.”
Tornielli reiterated the Holy See’s solicitude for the Bishops recognized by Rome but not yet by the Chinese government. “In connection with the appointments of new Bishops, as announced in September, an understanding was found. However, it’s still necessary to work concretely to resolve several delicate questions still open, as is the case of the “clandestine” Bishops not yet recognized by the Chinese government: an activity that engages the Holy See and that has, as its sole objective, the unity of the Church and the possibility for millions of Catholic Chinese citizens to profess their faith in full communion with the Pope.”
The Holy Father didn’t forget the progress envisaged for more religious freedom in that great and noble country. “It’s also necessary to stress the last lines of the paragraph dedicated to China in the Pope’s address to diplomats. “We hope that the pursuit of contacts on the implementation of the Provisional Agreement that was concluded will contribute to resolve the open questions and to ensure the necessary areas for an effective enjoyment of religious freedom.” One must deduce once again what is inherent in the title itself of the Agreement: the fact that it’s a first fundamental historic step of a path that isn’t concluded and that will still require time.”
In his address on the “state of the world,” seeing through the eyes of the Holy See, Pope Francis dedicated some significant lines to the signing of the Provisional Agreement with the People’s Republic of China. It’s an important passage because it underscores once again the intention that drove the Holy See to engage during years in “a long and pondered institutional dialogue,” whose first significant fruit is represented by the Agreement signed at Beijing on September 22, 2018, by the Under-Secretary of the Holy See’s Relations with States, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, and by the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Chao,” explained Tornielli, newly appointed to the post created by the Pope at the heart of the Vatican.
He takes issue against a political interpretation of this Agreement, which hands back to the Pope the appointments of Bishops and he stresses the continuity of the action of Popes to foster the unity of Catholics. The last Pontiffs and their collaborators were engaged not for political or diplomatic ends, but to foster the unity of the Catholic Church in China and the unity between the Chinese Bishops and the Successor of Peter, namely, to guarantee the essential elements for the life of Catholic communities.”
The Pope’s address returned to the communion of Bishops confirmed by the Agreement, pointed out Tornielli, who recalled — after the failures during the Synods called by John Paul II and Benedict XVI –, the first fruit of this Agreement was the participation of Chinese Bishops in last October’s Synod. “Pope Francis wished to recall, in his address to the Diplomatic Corps, that previously he had already admitted again in full ecclesial communion the last “official” Bishops ordained without pontifical mandate, “inviting them to work generously for the reconciliation of Chinese Catholics and for a new momentum of evangelization.”
For the first time, after so many years, all the Pastors of the Chinese Catholic Church are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. A sign of this full communion was the significant participation of two Bishops of Continental China in the Synod on Young People and one can remember the Pontiff’s emotion when he greeted them in the course of the celebration of the opening Mass in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica.