Analysis: The Agreement between China and the Holy See

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Analysis: The Agreement between China and the Holy See

By Antonio Spadaro, SJ/ laciviltacattolica.com

The signing of a provisional agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Holy See was announced by the Press Office of the Holy See on September 22, 2018.

It is helpful to understand this agreement as a true harmony of notes. That is to say, the beginning of a composition that has yet to be developed. This is not, then, the conclusion of a process, but it is a real starting point that needs to be implemented through instruments of control and improvements to the text.

In what follows I shall try to bring into perspective the recent itinerary tied to the figure of Pope Francis, who has often expressed both his admiration for China and his desire to overcome obstacles to a solid and efficacious dialogue. We shall see how this desire has solid roots in the action of his predecessors; indeed, his commitment is a development of the premises laid down by preceding popes. I shall then look to assess the agreement, its logic and the stance that sustains it. Finally, I look at a series of positive challenges that the signing of this agreement relaunches.

Francis: the desire for China

The Alitalia flight that brought Pope Francis to Korea on his apostolic journey flew over China on August 14, 2014. It was the first time a pope had been allowed to enter Chinese airspace. In the telegram he sent to President Xi Jinping, Francis wrote: “Entering Chinese airspace, I extend my best greetings to Your Excellency and to the citizens, and invoke the blessings of divine peace and wellbeing on the nation.” In a historical interview with Francesco Sisci for Asia Times published February 2, 2016, the pope recalled that moment, stating: “When I flew over China for the first time, they said to me: ‘In 10 minutes we will enter Chinese airspace and we will send your greeting.’ I confess I felt quite emotional, something that does not happen often. I was moved by the idea of flying over so much culture and wisdom.”

During the return flight to Rome, Francis recalled his emotion at flying over China and sent a second telegram to the Chinese head of state: “I wish to renew to Your Excellency and to the citizens the assurance of my best wishes, and I invoke the divine blessing on your land.”

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 20:18
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