“The others, whom I appointed, in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path.”
He noted that after a “famous communique of an ex-apostolic nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me.”
“The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God,” Pope Francis stated.
The pope also recalled, saying “thanks be to God that this is over”, that in Latin America “for 350 years it was for the king of Portugal and of Spain to appoint the bishops, and the Pope only gave jurisdiction.”
“We forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Maria Teresa was tired of signing the appointments of bishops and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican. These were other times, and thanks be to God that they aren’t repeated.”
He stated that under the agreement with China, the Chinese government will not appoint the bishops: “No, this is a dialogue about eventual candidates but Rome appoints, the Pope appoints.”
“And let us pray for the suffering of some who don’t understand, and who have behind them so many years of being clandestine.”
Announcing the deal on Saturday, the Holy See had said that “the shared hope is that this agreement may favor a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.”
Beijing established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in 1957 to regulate Catholics living in China, and Catholics in the country have been divided between members of the patriotic Church and the “underground Church”.
The agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic is meant to end the split between the patriotic and underground Churches.
The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party since a March 2018 decision by which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.
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In recent years, Chinese authorities have cracked down on underground Christian churches, as well as on Muslims throughout western provinces.