Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday
02 February, 2018, 22:46
An agreement would still leave unresolved other major questions about the Catholic Church's status in China, including the position of more than 30 bishops recognized by Rome but not by Beijing and re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican is likely to remain a distant goal. Two bishops from the underground Church, ordained by the Vatican but not approved by Beijing, have reportedly been asked to step down in order to make space for those from the official Chinese church-including one, Huang Bingzhang, who had previously been excommunicated.
The deal would require Pope Francis to lift the excommunications on seven bishops ordained for the state-run arm of the Chinese Catholic church but in exchange the Vatican will be given powers over how future bishops are appointed.
The Catholic Church in China is now divided between "underground" communities - whose first loyalty is to Rome - and those belonging to the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, but the deal is aimed at bringing about a reconciliation. For that, he was subsequently rebuked by Greg Burke, the press office director of the Vatican.
A report on China's religious revival by Freedom House in London judged that Catholics in China face "moderate" levels of persecution, while Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement faced "very high" levels of persecution.
In his Facebook post, Zen wrote that when he met with Francis Jan. 14 to discuss the situation, the pope implied that he didn't favor the outcome and wasn't fully aware of what his diplomats were doing on the ground.
In 2015, the World Religion Database estimated 7.3 million in the government's Catholic church and 10.5 million outside of it.
Chinese Catholics, including pope-backed bishops, who have remain loyal to the Vatican often face harassment and imprisonment and are forced to work underground.
In his Facebook post, he warned that by uniting the two churches, the Vatican would be strengthening a "schismatic church" and that there was no mutual gain when negotiating with a "totalitarian regime". "It is good for the country, the people and believers", the priest, who only gave his name as Zhang, said, saying it would give them an "international partner" and remove obstacles to the practice of their religion.
"In China, perhaps more than elsewhere, Catholics have been able to preserve, despite many difficulties and sufferings, the authentic deposit of faith, keeping firmly the bond of hierarchical communion between the bishops and the successor of Peter as a visible guarantee of faith itself", the cardinal said. "Yes, definitely", Zen said in an open letter on Monday, adding that the Communist government had introduced "harsher regulations limiting religious freedom". The party is particularly sensitive about religions with foreign control.
Five Taiwanese politicians announced plans this week to travel to Europe and seek an audience with the pope to express their concerns, Taiwanese media reported.
"In a framework agreement, however still under negotiation with China, the Vatican accepts to legitimise seven Chinese Catholic bishops chosen directly by China".
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The North Koreans - wearing fur hats and black coats - arrived to be greeted by a barrage of camera flashes. Ryom and Kim are among the ten North Korean athletes who arrived in South Korea the previous day.
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