The pastoral goal, he continued, was "to help the local Churches to enjoy conditions of greater freedom, autonomy and organization, so that they can dedicate themselves to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and contributing to the integral development of the person and society."
In his address -- the opening speech at a conference titled "Another China. Time of crisis, time of change" -- Parolin traced the history of the Catholic Church's relations with China, beginning with the mission of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci in the 16th century.
He noted that in 1951, the year that the Communist People's Republic of China broke off relations with the Holy See, Chinese authorities and Church leaders attempted to forge an agreement allowing local Catholics to continue to recognize the pope as their religious authority, while following the dictates of the government.
"This shows that since the time of Pius XII, the Holy See felt the need for dialogue, even if the circumstances of the time made it very difficult," he said.
But after four drafts of a possible agreement, the attempt was abandoned, creating "mutual distrust."
"It is a failure that has marked the entire subsequent history," he said.
Only decades later could dialogue begin again, Parolin said, recalling an exploratory trip to China that French Cardinal Roger Echegaray made in 1980.
"Since then, a path has begun that -- amid ups and downs -- has led to the present day," he said.
The cardinal added that he saw signs that the agreement was beginning to overcome divisions between Catholics belonging to China's state-sanctioned and "underground" churches, which he emphasized was a fundamental goal of the deal.
The agreement also sought to consolidate "an international horizon of peace, at this time when we are experiencing so many tensions at the world level."
Parolin concluded that the deal followed a line that "from Benedict XVI leads to Pope Francis, a line directed more to the future than to the present, more to the Church that must grow in China than to the disputes of yesterday and today."
(Story continues below)
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