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Vatican Secretary of State offers reassurances on talks with China

August 24, 2016

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has confirmed that the Holy See is actively engaged in diplomatic talks with China, but promised that the Vatican would not strike a bargain that would be detrimental to loyal Chinese Catholics.

The talks with Beijing, the cardinal said, are continuing "with a spirit of goodwill on both parts." But in a lengthy interview with the Italian daily Avvenire, he said that it would take "time, patience, and long-sightedness" to work out an agreement that would satisfy both parties. 

From the Vatican's perspective, the Secretary of State said, the most important consideration is the welfare of the Church:

For the Holy See, it is particularly important that Chinese Catholics be able to live their faith in a positive way, whilst also being good citizens and contributing to the reinforcement of harmony throughout Chinese society.

Cardinal Parolin stressed that the Vatican is not seeking to solidify the status of the government-approved "official" Church at the expense of the "underground" Catholic Church. In fact, he argued that the tendency to see Chinese Catholicism as divided into these two bodies "does not correspond to historical reality or to the life of faith of Chinese Catholics." He explained: "There are in fact two communities that are both eager to live in full communion with the Successor of Peter." The goal of Vatican diplomacy, he continued, is to "see these two communities reconcilied, embraing one another, giving and receiving mercy in a joint proclamation of the Gospel that is truly credible."

Cardinal Parolin also answered questions on the violence in the Middle East, noting that "intervention by foreign forces often contributes, for all sorts of reasons, to the intensifaction of conflict and the suffering of civilians." He echoed the argument of Pope Francis that Christianity is not at war with Islam, noting that among the victims of terrorism, Muslims greatly outnumber Christians. It is the strategy of the Islamic State, he observed, to portray the conflict as a religious conflict. The West, the cardinal said, should be careful about "falling into their trap."

Touching on the question of immigration, Cardinal Parolin rejected the argument that Western nations should close their borders in order to defend their Christian cultural identity. "The spirit of welcome is an essential part of Christian identity," he said.

 
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