CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A chat with Monsignor Ante Jozic

Further reflections from Monsignor Ante Jozic, the outgoing head of the Holy See Study Mission,
on the Church in China, excerpted from his interview with the
Sunday Examiner and the Kung Kao Po on February 12
In China we have bishops who are over 80- 90- or even 100-years-old, who still are retained as ordinaries. The Holy See prefers to have these bishops than none, but their dioceses need younger bishops to succeed them to guarantee the stability and future of these Church communities. Some of these old bishops, even if not accepted by the local authorities, are normally tolerated by them. 
Regarding the provisional agreement 
On 22 September 2018, the provisional agreement was reached and signed, and both sides are obliged to follow it. Certainly, it was not published because of its confidential and provisional nature, but it is written on the paper and those who will handle this sensitive and delicate Church issue will know it.
In selecting the candidates to episcopacy, each side has to lead its own process of determining the suitability of candidates and give its approval if they are acceptable to become future bishops. Therefore, the candidates have to receive the approval of both Holy See and the government. 
In this way, we ensure that the candidates who will be selected will be acceptable by both sides and able to work in public. Certainly, the Holy See will look always to appoint the best and the most suitable candidate, but that is not always easy. 
Looking at China over the past 10 years, I can say that there are some positive aspects for the Church: for example, the one child policy was abolished, the new agreement with the Vatican has been reached, and so on. It would have been impossible even to think of these things 10 years ago. 
Unfortunately, the Church in China is also experiencing new restrictions on rights and freedoms even though many people will say China now is not against the Church. The government wants to have a full control of all the Church activities because they are aware of the moral authority of the bishops and their role in the society. Therefore they want bishop-candidates to be on good terms with the government. 
In many places, we notice that the local governments help the Church, giving or returning the land to the Church and even building the churches. But in recent times, there are more and more restrictions on religious buildings and practices that are imposed for various reasons. 
According to the China watchers, the country has many problems—political or social—in different provinces and they are handling them in their respective ways. 
Certainly, we are worried that our faithful are deprived of their essential rights to educate their children in their culture, belief and customs. The restriction that forbids especially the children below the age of 18 to go to church and receive the sacraments, represents  a very big obstacle for the development of the Church in China. 
The future of China depends on the solutions that will be given to the society, not only on social and economic issues, but also on human rights, as well as on cultural and religious issues. 
One example could be the One-child policy. After 30 years, China has discovered that this policy created an imbalance and has become dangerous for the country. In 2018, the population in China dropped a bit, with 30 million more men than women in the country. When you touch nature, you cannot easily change it. 
The good thing about China is that the country changes these sensitive issues after assessing that something is not working. Unfortunately, they need a lot of time for that.
Regarding the future of Sino-Vatican relations 
I hope that we are going to improve more and more the relations with China that will lead us to the normalisation and, finally, to the establishment of the diplomatic relations. 
Once diplomatic relations are established and an office in Beijing is open, the Holy See will have a proper channel to handle all the religious matters with China and give its precious contribution to the society as is the practice with all other countries in the world. 
At the end of my mission in China, I would like to thank all the bishops and through them all the priests and lay faithful in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China for their support, collaboration and prayers. 
Leaving Hong Kong soon for the Ivory Coast in Africa, I assure them all of my daily prayers and invoke on them God’s abundant blessings.”    
Monsignor Jozic hails from a large family, and is the eighth of 11 children—four brothers and seven sisters, from the Archdiocese of Split, Croatia. During his school days he experienced communist rule in his country. 

He was ordained a priest in 1992 and began his priestly ministry in a large parish of Makarska, South of Split, as assistant for three years. Being in the parish with over 8,000 parishioners, he taught in a school and was in charge of Caritas for refugees who were fleeing from areas affected by the war. 

After three years, his archbishop sent him for higher studies at the Pontifical Diplomatic Academy in Rome. Father Jozic stayed at the academy for four years, during which he also completed his doctorate in Canon Law and Civil Law. 

He began his ministry in the diplomatic services with one and half months of training in the nuntiature in the Philippines. Before coming to Hong Kong, he served in India for four years and later for six years in Russia. 

Monsignor Jozic recalled both the assignments as “tough times” although those were good experiences as well. His tenure in India began with the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to New Delhi in 1999, during which he promulgated the Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia. His time in Russia was a time of tension between the Russian Orthodox and the Catholic Church. 

Although Monsignor Jozic did not live in mainland China, he stressed that the people of China have very strong faith and that guarantees that the Church will go on prosper and develop. The country needs also to have good bishops and good priests who will inspire the people through preaching the gospel. 

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