The tabloid linked to the People's Daily cites Archbishop Sachez Sorondo, Mgr Zhan Silu and Francesco Sisci who back the renewal of the provisional agreement, but fails to mention any supporter in the Party. For a Vatican official, this agreement is like poison for the Church.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Global Times, a tabloid paper linked to the People's Daily, Communist Party’s daily newspaper, is “optimistic” about the renewal of the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican on episcopal appointments signed two years ago and set to expire in September.
In an article published on Wednesday, the paper writes that its “framework has worked well for the past two years”. However, such blind optimism flies in the face of what AsiaNews has documented in recent months in a series of investigative pieces on the situation of the Church in China (promotion of an independent Church, church closures, ban on religious education for minors, social exclusion of religious believers, etc.).
The Global Times rests its blind optimism on Mgr Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who is quoted as say that "they are going to renew it, which means that the initial experience went well.”
Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, once said that China is where the social doctrine of the Church is best realised. This, however, dates back two years, before the Wuhan disaster and Beijing's silence on the pandemic.
Another optimist is Bishop Zhan Silu of Mindong (Fujian), whose excommunication Pope Francis lifted so that he could take the place as ordinary bishop of Mgr Guo Xijin, who was asked to accept the lower rank of auxiliary bishop.
Unfortunately, Bishop Guo was not recognised by the government and, as punishment, has been placed under 24 hours surveillance, not to mention that his utilities (gas, electricity, water) have been cut.
Archbishop Zhan said that China and the Vatican are satisfied and that the agreement “could help push ties to the next step.”
Another optimist is journalist Francesco Sisci, who says that the Holy See could be a reliable and important partner to China, this despite growing controversies between China and the United States.
Sisci is famous for interviewing Pope Francis about his love for China, but asking nothing about the fate of the Church and religions in the country.
So far, only members of the Church or the Vatican have expressed optimism; no current party member has gone the record to say anything positive about the accord.
The piece in the Global Times only mentions a meeting in February between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Bishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
According to several observers, this is a sign that not everyone in the Party is happy with the agreement and only the Foreign Ministry is pushing for improved relations between China and the Holy See in order to strip Taiwan of its last diplomatic mission in Europe.
What is more, any optimistic outlook vis-à-vis the political side of the issue (relations between China and the United States, relations with Taiwan, etc.) disappears when it come to the issue of religious freedom.
A Chinese bishop, who asked that his name be withheld, said bitterly: “It is a poisonous agreement! Priests, women religious and ordinary believers are left uncertain, weak, when they are encouraged to join the independent Church and the (Chinese) Patriotic (Catholic) Association. Despite so many negative things and various forms of persecution against the Church, these people think that it [the agreement] is something good.”