Director of the Observatory of the Chinese Police
The fact that the Holy See wants to reach a historic agreement with China is more evident than ever in view of the content that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parloin, shared with the web Vatican Insider on 31 January. The Vatican emphatically wishes to favour the reconciliation and unity of the two Catholic communities that coexist in the Asian giant, one official and supported by the CPC and another one backed by the Holy See and clandestine.
Speculation on whether, as a concession, the Holy See will recognise the “illegal” bishops to be able to re-establish diplomatic relations, gain ground in view of the pressure put on bishops of the clandestine church to resign and hand over the position to those appointed by the Catholic Patriotic Association of China. This is not the price of a political exchange, Cardinal Parolin affirms in the interview, but it seems sine qua non condition for the normalization to progress adequately. It is not equivalent to the agreement, but, without a doubt, it speeds up the process. In some dioceses, there are two bishops, one appointed by the Holy See and another by Beijing, proving the existing division.
Taiwan follows the tug-of-war with certain anguish. Kuomintang (KMT) established relations with the Holy See in 1942, when it still governed in the continent. After the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, the Vatican maintained the recognition and it still describes its embassy in Taipei as Apostolic Nunciature of China, the only China it recognises. In the event that the agreement is implemented, it would be taken to Beijing. The hypothesis of maintaining a double recognition is not admissible.
The Holy See stopped consecrating clandestine bishops in 2005, waiting to create favourable conditions for an agreement that did not seem to come. Now it openly advocates forgiveness in the interests of reconciliation. Pope Francis seems to have made a decision and he is decided to let bygones be bygones in order to start a new chapter. We will see how he will be able to juggle things around in order to guarantee a “Chinese orientation” and a “better adaptation to the socialist society” to his church, as recently claimed by the deputy prime minister Wang Yang in a symposium with religious leaders, a call more and more frequent in the Chinese politics.
The Communist Party of China can retract from its atheism before the Holy See but it will not “renounce” without the due guarantees and corrections to the right to appoint bishops for the dioceses. It is true that there are intermediate formulas to achieve balance regarding the final saying and the tacit support that can, nevertheless, facilitate understanding. The Pope could have right of veto over the candidates for bishop or vice versa, letting China being the one that vetoes. In Vietnam’s case, an agreement signed in 1996 establishes that the Holy See proposes three bishops in Hanoi and the Vietnamese government chooses one of them.
For the Vatican is not a minor problem being able to get guarantees so that the faithful can practice their beliefs without fear of being victims of repression. Cardinal Joseph Zen has raised his voice from Hong Kong to warn about the risks of an agreement in which the Holy See grants to much power to Beijing, making evident the bitter dispute that negotiations have created in some circles of the church and in the Catholic community that has experienced persecution. Retired since 2009, Zen travelled to Rome recently in a desperate attempt to stop the process to replace a legitimate bishop by an excommunicated one, which he describes as surrender.
The Chinese authorities are very scrupulous, the Vatican diplomacy has much experienced. Both are united by pragmatism…
23/02/2018. © All rights reserved.