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Cardinal: Vatican and China ‘agree on bishops’

Cardinal John Tong: ‘From now on, there will be no more the crisis of a division’ (Getty)

China and the Holy See have reached a consensus on the appointment of bishops, Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong has said.

“From now on, there will be no more the crisis of a division between the open and underground communities in the Church in China,” he said.

“On the contrary, these two communities will gradually move toward reconciliation and communion on the aspects of law, pastoral care and relationships. The Church in China will work together to preach the Gospel of Jesus on the soil of China.”

In a letter published last week, Cardinal Tong noted that China and the Vatican had different interests, so would prioritise the remaining problems differently.

“The Chinese government is concerned with problems on the political level, while for the Holy See, the problems are on the religious and pastoral levels,” he said.

The Vatican and China, which severed diplomatic ties in 1951, have had on-again, off-again talks since the 1980s. Under Pope Francis, the two restarted a formal dialogue in 2014.

In recent years, because of government requirements, the priests, nuns and lay people of Chinese dioceses have elected their bishops. Most of those elected have applied to the Holy See for approval. Cardinal Tong said the Sino-Vatican dialogue indicates that China now will “let the Pope play a role in the nomination and ordination of Chinese bishops”. Since, under Church law, the Pope has the final say in the appointment of bishops, this would solve several problems, he said.

“Beijing will also recognise the Pope’s right of veto and that the Pope is the highest and final authority in deciding on candidates for bishops in China,” he said. The Catholic Patriotic Association advocated the “self-nomination and self-ordination” of bishops, but if the agreement on papal approval of bishops was reached, that principle would become history, he said.

“If the Pope has the final word about the worthiness and suitability of an episcopal candidate, the elections of local churches and the recommendations of the bishops’ conference will simply be a way to express recommendations,” Cardinal Tong said. This move would turn the government-controlled Patriotic Association into a “voluntary, non-profit, patriotic and Church-loving organisation composed of clergy and faithful from all around the country,” Cardinal Tong said.

He also said seven bishops who had been illegitimately consecrated had already written to the Pope asking for forgiveness and signalling their “willingness to submit themselves to the Pope unconditionally”.


Pope: ‘Don’t dialogue with Devil’

Satan is a liar who promises people everything then leaves them with nothing, Pope Francis has said at a morning Mass.

He contrasted the way Eve interacted with the serpent in the garden of Eden with how Jesus reacted to the Devil after 40 days in the desert.

With Eve, “the father of lies” demonstrates how he is a specialist in tricking people, the Pope said. First, he makes her feel comfortable, then he begins a dialogue with her, leading her “step by step” where he wants her to go. “He’s a trickster,” the Pope said. “He promises you everything and leaves you naked,” as he left Adam and Eve. Jesus, on the other hand, does not enter into a dialogue with the Devil, but responds to his temptations by quoting Scripture, Pope Francis said.

“The serpent, the Devil, is astute,” he said, but “you cannot dialogue with the Devil.”


Church to stay neutral as Russia hails revolution

The Catholic Church in Russia will seek to remain neutral during the 100th anniversary year of the Russian Revolution, a senior official has said.

Mgr Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference, said: “Although we won’t be commemorating the revolution, our Church communities will naturally reflect on what happened.

“We’ll pray for Russia, and for all those who died for their faith during those dreadful years. But the Catholic faithful hold various political views, so the Church won’t try to promote any one position.”

Russia’s observance will include the anniversary of the 1917 overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, which occurred in March, and the seizure of power by Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin in following November.

In early January, President Putin appointed a governmental commission for preparations.

Russia’s Orthodox Church is represented on the commission. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow last month urged citizens to mark the anniversary with “deep reflection and sincere prayer” rather than “inappropriate celebrations”.

Mgr Sergei Timashov, vicar general in Moscow, said the Catholic approach would be the same.

“We won’t be planning any particular events to commemorate the revolution,” he said. “Instead, we’ll focus attention on the 1917 apparitions at Fatima, which foresaw Russia’s eventual return to God.”

Fr Kirill Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian bishops’ conference, suggested that small religious denominations could face pressure to acknowledge the revolution’s “positive achievements” in health, education and other areas, rather than “concentrating on the repression”.