Pope Francis today, Sept. 26, 2018, issued a message to the Catholics of China and to the Universal Church. The 11-point message touches on various issues, amongst them the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican published Sept. 22.
“The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church’s life and necessarily capable of improvement,” it noted, “can contribute – for its part – to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China.”
For the first time, it said, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds.
“In this context, the Holy See intends fully to play its own part. Yet an important part also falls to you, the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful: to join in seeking good candidates capable of taking up in the Church the demanding and important ministry of bishop.”
“It is not a question of appointing functionaries to deal with religious issues, but of finding authentic shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, men committed to working generously in the service of God’s people, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. Men who take seriously the Lord’s words: “Whoever would become great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44).”
In this regard, it continued, “it seems clear that an Agreement is merely aninstrument, and not of itself capable of resolving all existing problems. Indeed, it will prove ineffective and unproductive, unless it is accompanied by a deep commitment to renewing personal attitudes and ecclesial forms of conduct.”
Also in the message it said that on a pastoral level, “the Catholic community in China is called to be united, so as to overcome the divisions of the past that have caused, and continue to cause great suffering in the hearts of many pastors and faithful.
All Christians, none excluded, it underscored, must now offer gestures of reconciliation and communion.