CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Vatican-China talks resume reports say

BANGKOK (UCAN): After a long break, talks have resumed in recent weeks between China and the Holy See over a deal to normalise the appointment of bishops, according to reports coming out of Rome, with Pope Francis saying he remains committed to dialogue with the ruling Communist Party.
 
Citing unnamed Vatican sources, Reuters said that the first round of talks since December was held in Rome in the second week of June, 
 
Neither side has ever confirmed the timing of talks and Rome has previously also indicated that any final agreement may not be released publicly. There have been unconfirmed reports that the target date for an initial deal was June.
 
However, talks might have been complicated by the case of Bishop Augustine Cui Tai, who has not been seen in the two months since his detention in mid-April (Sunday Examiner, June 10), as well as crackdowns on the Church in the major Christian provinces of Henan and Hebei on the back of tough new religious regulations issued by Beijing on February 1. 
 
Henan, home to more Catholics than any other Chinese province, has seen rules forbidding minors to worship in official churches, crosses removed and some places of worships shuttered.
 
Pope Francis spoke positively about a deal in an interview with Reuters at his residence on June 17.
 
“We are at a good point,” the pope told reporter. Phillip Pullela, adding that “dialogue is a risk, but I prefer risk rather than the certain defeat that comes with not holding dialogue.”
 
He added, “As for the timing, some people say it’s Chinese time. I say it’s God’s time. Let’s move forward serenely.”
 
The pope described the talks as being in three parts: official dialogue, unofficial contacts between ordinary citizens “which we do not want to burn”—perhaps alluding to the unofficial Church community— and—cultural dialogue.
 
Opposition to the deal remains strong in the unofficial Church.
 
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, told the Hong Kong Free Press in May, “Some are saying maybe now there are difficulties on the Chinese side, because there are people who think that they don’t need the agreement, they can control everything. Maybe there are voices in China against the eventual agreement.” 
 
He added, “You see that there are many actions on the side of the government which show that they are tightening control on religion. And so it’s more difficult to understand how the Vatican can come to a deal at this moment, because obviously they are seen as collaborating with the government.”
 
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, told journalists in late June that China was sincere about improving two-way ties with the Vatican.
 
“We are willing to meet the Vatican side halfway and make new progress in the process of improving relations and advancing constructive bilateral dialogue,” he said.
 
One of the key sticking points remains how the Vatican will deal with seven illicitly ordained bishops, several of whom are known to have long-term relationships with women as well as children. 

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