The deal went into effect a month after it was approved and will expire Oct. 22. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists earlier this month that the Holy See intended to renew the agreement, which it adopted “ad experimentum,” or provisionally.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired bishop of Hong Kong, told CNA earlier this month that the Church’s silence on human rights abuses in China as it sought to extend the deal would harm efforts to evangelize the country.
He said: “The resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization. Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”
Tornielli’s article appeared shortly before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to arrive in Rome for talks with Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
In an exclusive interview with CNA Sept. 25, Pompeo said that he planned to discuss human rights violations in China, and urge Vatican officials to speak out about Chinese persecution of religious groups.
He observed that the plight of religious believers had worsened since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.
“The Church has an enormous amount of moral authority and we want to encourage them to use that moral authority, to improve the conditions for believers, certainly Catholic believers, but believers of all faiths inside of China, and so that’s the conversation that we’ll have,” he said.
In his article, Tornielli emphasized that the agreement did not touch on diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China, which Beijing broke off in 1951. Nor did it concern “the juridical status of the Catholic Chinese Church, or the relations between the clergy and the country’s authorities.”
“The Provisional Agreement exclusively treats the process for the appointment of bishops: an essential question for the life of the Church and for the necessary communion between the pastors of the Chinese Catholic Church with the Bishop of Rome and with the bishops throughout the world,” he wrote.
“The goal of the Provisional Agreement, therefore, has never been merely diplomatic, much less, political, but was always genuinely pastoral. Its objective is to permit the Catholic faithful to have bishops in full communion with the Successor of Peter who are at the same time recognized by the authorities of the People’s Republic of China.”
When CNA asked Zen if he saw any prospect that Vatican negotiations with the current Communist government would lead to improvements for the local Church, he said simply “No.”
“Is there any choice between helping the government to destroy the Church or resisting the government to keep our Faith?” he asked.
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