Recognizing that the deal had provoked different reactions and concern for the future of the Catholic communities in China, he said he is aware of the "flurry of thoughts and opinions" which may have caused "a certain confusion."
He noted that some Chinese Catholics may be feeling abandoned by the Holy See, questioning "the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter," while others may have hopeful expectation for the outcomes of the agreement.
Pope Francis acknowledged that the provisional agreement has its limits but expressed hope in the fact that for the first time, "the stable elements of cooperation" are set up so that the State authorities and Church authorities can provide good shepherds for the Catholic community.
The agreement is just an instrument, not a solution to all of the existing problems, he said, and "it will prove ineffective and unproductive, unless it is accompanied by a deep commitment to renewing personal attitudes and ecclesial forms of conduct."
No Christian can be excluded from the task of offering gestures of reconciliation and communion and of working to build a society which respects the dignity of every person, he said.
Speaking to the universal Church, he said it is now the time to taste "the genuine fruits of the Gospel sown in the ancient 'Middle Kingdom' and to raise to the Lord Jesus Christ a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes."
He asked the leaders of the People's Republic of China to continue to dialogue with trust, courage, and foresightedness, so that China and the Apostolic See "will be able to act more positively for the orderly and harmonious growth of the Catholic community in China."
Francis concluded his message by invoking the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying that she would "present to the Lord of history the trials and tribulations, the petitions and the hopes" of all who pray to her; and that she would be a refuge for all who "weep amid their trials."
"Mary, Help of Christians, for China we implore days of blessing and of peace."
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.