"Everything will be fine," Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists asking for information regarding the October 2018 Agreement between China and the Holy See regarding the appointment of bishops. "We have to wait until tomorrow to know when it will expire," he said noting that the Agreement was signed two years ago ad experimentum and that it will possibly be extended.
The Vatican Secretary of State was answering questions posed to him by reporters present at the Pontifical Antonianum University where the Orthodox Patriarch, Bartholomew I, received an Honorary Doctorate.
Ongoing contact between the parties
Cardinal Parolin affirmed that the content of the Agreement between China and the Holy See will remain secret. But it is a "relative secret,” he explained, noting that “much of the content is already known", and he revealed that the decision to renew the Agreement was taken in the past days.
He observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has complicated things because of travel restrictions but said the two parties have had ongoing contact.
The Cardinal also expressed satisfaction for the results of the Agreement: "We can say we are pleased. We hope that there will be improvements regarding the functioning of the terms of the Agreement.”
Of course, he added, there are also many other issues that the Agreement was never intended to resolve.
In fact, Parolin emphasized, “We do not think that the Agreement can solve all the problems in China".
"There are regulations that are imposed and that concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church," he said.
The Agreement concerns the situation of the Church
To a question regarding whether the Agreement "anticipates a future re-establishment of diplomatic relations" the Vatican Secretary of State said that "for the moment there is no talk of diplomatic relations. We are focused on the Church.”
He reiterated that the Agreement has not solved all the problems and difficulties but expressed the hope that, through dialogue, they too will be faced “because the Agreement does not concern diplomatic relations nor does it foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Agreement concerns the situation of the Church, in particular a specific issue which is the appointment of bishops.”
“The aim is the unity of the Church. There have been results such as the fact that all the bishops in China are in communion with the Pope. There are no more illegitimate bishops, this seems to me a remarkable step forward. From here on, it is a question of starting again and then, step by step, creating the conditions for the normalization of the Church in China."
Cardinal Parolin also dwelt on the situation in war-torn Syria and recalled the appeal launched by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Damascus, on October 15 in the Vatican.
In that occasion, Zenari asked all the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to take action in favour of the country where violence still rages in many areas.
Cardinal Zenari warned that there is also another bomb that is about to explode in the country, and that bomb is extreme poverty.
“First of all we must address this issue,” Cardinal Parolin said, expressing the hope that Zenari’s appeal will be listened to and acted upon by the ambassadors present at the Holy See, who he said, must inform their respective governments and find a common response in the international community.
Judicial investigations in the Vatican
Cardinal Parolin also answered a question about recent judicial investigations in the Vatican. "Personally, I live all this with great suffering,” he said and he expressed his opinion that beyond the responsibility that will be established by the investigation, the events risk creating much disorientation among the faithful.
“But I would also like to add,” he said quoting a Chinese proverb: “it seems to me that a falling tree makes much more noise than a growing forest. The forest grows in the Church in the sense that there is so much good that the Church does for people. So perhaps we should not focus only on the evil that unfortunately there is, as there is in every human reality."
Bartholomew I and integral ecology
Cardinal Parolin was present at the Pontifical Antonianum University to preside at the ceremony in which an Honorary Doctorate was conferred upon the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
Speaking of the Patriarch during the ceremony, Parolin described him as "an emblematic figure for the environmental cause, for integral ecology that represents a priority in the Pontifical Universities of Rome.”
Recalling the life, formation and teaching of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Cardinal said that even during the most difficult phases, he has always encouraged and actively pursued Christian unity and full communion. "For Bartholomew I," he added, "faith in creation stimulates the ecumenical process. It constitutes a further common element, beyond those of doctrinal nature."