The Pope accepted a question on China, given that news of a “preliminary agreement” between the Vatican and the People’s Republic was announced on the first day of Francis’ pastoral visit to the Baltic States Sep. 22-25.
The Pope described the deal as the result of a “process that has been going on for years” and born from the work of a Vatican commission, even though the pontiff took on full responsibility for the result.
“You know that when you make a contract, both sides lose something. This is the law and we go ahead. This one went two steps ahead and one back, two ahead and one back,” Francis said. “The issue of the bishops was studied case by case. The dossier of each one of them landed on my desk. I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops.”
“I think of the resistance, of the Catholics who have suffered. It’s true, and they will suffer. Always there is suffering in a deal. But they have a great faith,” Francis said.
“I signed the deal,” he added, “I’m responsible. The others worked for over ten years. This is not an improvisation, it’s a journey.”
The pope also prayed for the suffering of the clandestine Church and for those who don’t understand. Concerning the bishops in China, the pope said that their nomination will be the fruit of a dialogue.
“But the Pope nominates them,” he said, “this is clear.”
He also added two anecdotes. The first detailed examples of South America, where bishops were chosen by the rulers of Spain and Portugal for over 300 years, and in the Astro-Hungarian empire where the Church for a long time did not have a say on who its bishops were.
“Thank God this no longer happens,” the pope said.
The second anecdote included the only reference to Viganò during the press conference.
“When there was that famous communique by a former apostolic nuncio [ambassador], the episcopacies of the world wrote to me saying that they felt close and they prayed for me,” the pope said. “The Chinese faithful wrote to me and the signature on this document was by the bishop of, let’s say, the traditional Catholic Church and the bishops of the patriotic Church together, both of them and both faithful.”
“To me this was a sign from God,” Francis added.