Cardinal sees ‘very hopeful’ China-Vatican ties

By Li Ruohan in Astana, Kazakhstan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/11 13:18:39

Cooperation to make bishops ‘good Chinese citizens and Catholics’




Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts  Photo: Li Ruohan/GT



The landmark deal on the appointment of bishops signed in September between China and the Vatican has generated goodwill from both sides, and relations between the two sides look hopeful, said a cardinal from the Vatican on Wednesday.  

"Relations between China and the Vatican at this moment are very hopeful. In past years,  relations grew in many ways, including in culture and science," said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.  

"Those little steps are very useful to know each other and to show that we [the Catholic Church] are not dangerous and can be friends," Coccopalmerio told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The most challenging issue for the two sides is the nomination of bishops, and China and the Vatican must have found a solution or the agreement would not have been signed, the 80-year-old cardinal said. 

China and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on September 22 over the appointment of bishops after decades of negotiations. Though the details of the agreement were not made public, the agreement was hailed by religious analysts as a significant move for both sides to understand and get closer to each other. 

Signs of goodwill

The agreement generated goodwill from the two sides during the negotiations, said Coccopalmerio. The goodwill from the Pope is understanding that the Chinese government has its interests over the issue, the cardinal said. 

The Pope understands that the diocese in China is not only a religious group, but also a group with people from civil society. They are religious and civilian people, Coccopalmerio said.  

Echoing Coccopalmerio, Bishop Vladimír Fekete, the Apostolic Prefect of Azerbaijan, told the Global Times on Thursday that the agreement is important as it carries the hope that Catholics in China will be more united.

Fekete hailed the cooperation between the two sides, saying the bishops in China will be "good Chinese citizen and good Catholics."

In his first public comments on the provisional deal, Pope Francis told reporters on September 25 that while he realizes not everyone will understand the logic behind the agreement, he was confident in the "great faith" of Chinese Catholics, Reuters reported.

"I, too, am convinced that an encounter can be authentic and fruitful only if it occurs through dialogue, which involves coming to know one another, to respect one another and to 'walk together' for the sake of building a common future of sublime harmony," the Pope said in a statement released by the Vatican on September 26.

The skeptics and critics, including those from China's "underground churches," will understand and accept the deal in the future, Coccopalmerio said. 

Coccopalmerio is heading a delegation from the Holy See to Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, for the Sixth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

The two-day event, running from Wednesday to Thursday, brings together 82 delegations from 46 countries and regions, with representatives of Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and members of religious and civic organizations.

"China has the largest population in the world, and it's important that the nation has greater interaction with the international society," Archbishop Tomash Peta from Astana told the Global Times on Thursday on the sidelines of the congress.

"There will be more good news on cooperation, and I wish the Holy Father would visit China," said Peta, Archbishop Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana.

The theme of the congress, which starts on Wednesday, is "Religious Leaders for a Secure World."



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