Cardinal Parolin defends deal with Beijing

What happened?

Cardinal Pietro Parolin has defended the Vatican’s diplomatic approach to China. The Holy See hopes to end the current division, in which some bishops are only recognised by Rome, and some only by the state-run Patriotic Association. A deal is planned in which Rome and Beijing collaborate. Cardinal Joseph Zen has criticised the deal. In an apparent response, Cardinal Parolin said there was no “exclusive interpreter of what is good for Chinese Catholics”.

What the media are saying

Pope Francis is trying to reverse a decline in China’s Catholic population, said Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian in the Washington Post. But “this very scenario has played out before – in communist Hungary”. After the Vatican allowed Hungary to appoint bishops, Catholics lapsed in vast numbers.

Opposition to the deal is “widespread”, Allen-Ebrahimian claimed. Guo Xijin, one of the bishops asked to step aside, serves in a region that has about 80,000 Catholics. Of those, 70,000 are affiliated with the “underground” Church rather than the state-run institution. But Fr Jeroom Heyndrickx told the BBC that the time was right. “China has changed and the Church has changed and this is what constitutes a new opportunity for this dialogue to succeed,” he said.

What cardinals are saying

Cardinal Parolin stressed that the Holy See understood the “serious sufferings endured by many Catholics in China and their generous witness to the Gospel”. Nevertheless, he told La Stampa, “The hope is that, when God wills it, we won’t have to speak of ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ bishops, ‘clandestine’ and ‘official’ bishops in the Church in China, but about meeting among brothers and sisters.”

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