In a video announcing the pope's prayer intention for March as a prayer for "the unity of Christians in China," Pope Francis said: "The Church wants Chinese Christians to be truly Christians, and to be good citizens."
Pope Francis also added this line to his prayer May 24 entrusting China to Mary. The pope added "and good citizens" to the end of his prepared petition that Chinese Catholics may be "joyful witnesses and promoters of charity and fraternal hope."
The terms of the 2018 interim agreement have not been released, however Pope Francis gave some insight into the process that led to its signing in an interview on Sept. 25, 2018, two days after the agreement was signed.
"You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something," Pope Francis said. "This is the law. Both sides. And you move ahead."
He said that "the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case-by-case," and that "dossiers came on to my desk about each one. And I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops."
Following this, drafts of the agreement were put on his desk, Pope Francis said. They were discussed and "I gave my ideas."
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."
"I signed the agreement," Pope Francis stated. "I am responsible."
"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."
Pope Francis noted the efforts of Archbishop Celli, along with Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Fr. Rota Graziosi, an official in the Roman Curia, in forming the 2018 interim agreement.
"We do not look only at the present, but we try to look to the future and give the future of our relationship a deep and respectful basis and I would say that we are working in this direction," Celli said of the ongoing negotiations over renewal of the agreement.
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"On our journey we must all be faithful to the Gospel," he said. "It is not an easy path, but it seems to me that we have embarked on a respectful path … trying to understand each other in order to be able to see how to still resolve those knots that remain, and those situations that undeniably leave much more than thoughtful, I would say worried."
"However we must carry it forward," Celli said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.