Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Vatican and Beijing reconciling differences

By Chang Meng-jen 張孟仁

After a careful reading of the Jan. 31 interview with the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by the Web site Vatican Insider, one cannot help being worried about the state of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the Vatican.

The interview makes it clear that the Holy See continues to offer China an olive branch for the sake of the faithful who are following a path toward reconciliation and unity of the two communities, and that it is willing to forgive and forget the past suffering of its followers in exchange for the hope of a better future. This underlines the current debate of whether the Holy See will recognize the illegal bishops who have betrayed the church to be able to establish diplomatic ties with China.

Parolin’s statements and several past incidents seem to substantiate reports that the Holy See is forcing China’s underground bishops consecrated by the Vatican to step down and make way for the bishops appointed by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

In a six-page interview entitled “Why we are in dialogue with China,” Parolin answered questions about relations between the Vatican and China.

The dialogue between the Holy See and China and the talks are a matter of “constructive openness to dialogue,” “fidelity to the genuine tradition of the church,” as well as the Holy See’s concrete hopes,” he said.

Parolin also mentioned the Holy See’s attitude toward Chinese authorities, the risk of erasing past and present suffering by wiping the slate clean, while offering advice addressed to the Chinese faithful and responding to speculation about whether “the Pope [is] informed of what his collaborators do in their contacts with the Chinese government.”

He also addressed the Vatican’s goodwill message to the Chinese government, explaining that the dialogue ultimately aims to build a communion of “two communities of faithful” in China.

Taking Chinese authorities’ scruples into consideration, Parolin reiterates that “the mission proper to the Church is not to change the structures or administration of the State,” but “to make a positive and serene contribution for the good of all.”

“If someone is asked to make a sacrifice, small or great, it must be clear to everyone that this is not the price of a political exchange,” he said, adding that the pope “personally follows current contacts with the authorities of the People’s Republic of China” and that “no one takes private initiatives.”

Finally, Parolin expressed the wish that the Chinese faithful “will know how to recognize that the action of the Holy See is animated by this trust, which does not respond to worldly logic.”

These statements boil down to the following three points:

First, because the pope is in control of the whole process, it will inevitably result in reconciliation with China and avoidance of conflict in order to unite the Chinese church.

Second, the sacrifices needed to remove the obstacles blocking reconciliation between the Vatican and China to create a positive shared future are acceptable.

Third, past suffering should be forgiven for the sake of reconciliation and mercy, and history should not be allowed to block reconciliation.

Parolin has said that a pragmatic solution must be found to allow the church to continue to spread the Gospel in China’s unique social context. Not only are the Vatican-China talks that have Taiwanese so worried approaching the final stages, the pro-China faction within the church is also busy trying to eliminate the remaining obstacles.

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