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Vatican denies rift between Pope and advisers over China

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Vatican has issued a statement contradicting Cardinal Joseph Zen’s account of the Pope’s relationship with his collaborators on China.

Cardinal Zen wrote an open letter saying that Pope Francis had indicated in a private audience that he was opposed to the replacement of ‘underground’ Chinese bishops with government-backed ones.

The Pope’s words suggested that a Vatican delegation in the country was acting behind his back and against his wishes in ordering two ‘underground’ bishops to stand aside.

Now the Holy See has issued a press statement “with reference to widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China.”

The statement says: “The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention.”

In an apparent reference to Cardinal Zen, the statement adds:

“It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy.”