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Pope hopes Provisional Agreement with China will be renewed

In an interview with Philip Pullella of Reuters, Pope Francis speaks about the appointment of bishops in the People’s Republic of China.

By Vatican News

The Pope says the Holy See’s Provisional Agreement with the People’s Republic of China “is going well” and that he hopes it can be renewed next October. Pope Francis made the remarks in an interview with the Reuters news agency, conducted by correspondent Philip Pullella.

Thanks to the Provisional Agreement signed in 2018, the text of which is currently confidential, the situation of the Catholic Church in China was remedied by bringing bishops who had been installed without papal mandate back into full communion with Rome. The Agreement gives the Pope the final word on the appointment of new bishops, while providing a shared path to arrive at an agreement on episcopal nominations.

Defending the Agreement

As the transcript of the Reuters interview shows, Pope Francis has defended the Agreement and expressed appreciation for the role played by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in reaching the accord: “The one who is handling this agreement is Cardinal Parolin, who is the best diplomat in the Holy See, a man of high diplomatic standing. And he knows how to move, he is a man of dialogue, and he dialogues with the Chinese authorities. I believe that the commission that he chairs has done everything to move forward and look for a way out. And they have found it.”

The art of the possible

Pope Francis then defended the policy of taking small steps, the “martyrdom of patience” described by Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the architect of the Vatican’s policy of Ostpolitik in relations with Eastern European countries in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. “Many people said so many things against John XXIII, against Paul VI, against Casaroli,” the Pope explained. “But diplomacy is like that. Faced with a closed situation, one must seek the possible, not the ideal, path. Diplomacy is the art of the possible and making what is possible become a reality.” He added, “The Holy See has always had these great men. But this [diplomacy] with China is being carried out by Parolin, who is great in this area.”

Hopes for renewal

Comparing the current situation to the reality before the fall of the Soviet regime in 1989, Pope Francis said that the appointment of bishops in China since 2018 is going slowly but noted there have been results. “It is going slowly, but [some bishops] have been appointed. It is going slow, as I say, ‘the Chinese way’, because the Chinese have that sense of time, that no one can rush them.”

He noted, too, that the Chinese “also have problems because it is not the same situation in every region of the country”—referring to the different attitudes of local authorities in China—and also “because it [the manner of relating to the Church] depends on the local leaders, there are different ones.”

Nonetheless, the Pope said, “the Agreement is good, and I hope it can be renewed in October.”

Source: Vatican News