Pope: 'I am responsible for the agreement with China'. The memory of KGB persecutions
During his return flight to Italy, Pope Francis defended the value of the provisional agreement signed between Beijing and the Holy See. Appreciation for the Secretariat of State and prayer for "some who do not understand", such as Card. Joseph Zen. Remembering "Catholics who suffered: it is true, they will suffer. In an agreement there is suffering ". The horror in front of the KGB torture chambers in Vilnius. "The same cruelty today is found in many places of detention".
Rome (AsiaNews) - "I signed the agreement [between China and the Vatican] "; the dossiers on the excommunicated bishops arrived "on my desk"; "I was responsible for signing" [their readmission to ecclesial communion]"; in the appointment of the bishops, with the government there will "be a dialogue on the candidates", but " Rome appoints". On the plane from Tallinn, returning to Rome after his trip to the Baltic countries, Pope Francis spoke with journalists on the recent agreement between China and the Holy See for the appointment of bishops. In his question, the journalist recalls "some Catholics and Card. Zen "who" accuse him of having sold out the Church to the government ". The Pope mentions them saying that he prays "for the suffering of some who do not understand or who have many years of underground life behind them".
In his response there is an appreciation for the Secretariat of State and a passage on "Catholics who have suffered: it is true, they will suffer. In an agreement there is suffering ".
The brief passage on the suffering of Chinese Catholics is echoed in his answer to the question about his feelings upon "visiting the museum where the KGB prisoners were killed in Vilnius". After listing the series of tortures to which Christians (and not only) were subjected, the pontiff recalled that "cruelty is not over. The same cruelty today is found in many places of detention ".
Here are the two complete questions and answers:
Three days ago an agreement was signed between the Holy See and the government of the Chinese Republic. Can you give us some additional information about its contents, because some Chinese Catholics, in particular Cardinal Zen, are accusing you of having sold the Church to the government of Beijing after so many years of suffering. How do you respond to these accusations?
This is a process of years, a dialogue between the Vatican commission and the Chinese commission to put the appointment of bishops in order. The Vatican team worked a lot. I would like to say some names: Monsignor Celli (Ed. note: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli), who with patience went into dialogue. Years. Years! Then, Fr. Rota Graziosi, a humble Curia official of 72 years of age who wants to be a priest, to go in a parish, but he stayed in the Curia to help in this process. And then, the Secretary of State, who is a very devoted man, Cardinal Parolin, but he has a special devotion to the lens, he studies all of the documents down to the period, comma, notes, and this gives me a great assurance. Also, this team with these qualities went ahead. You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something. This is the law. Both sides. And you move ahead.
This went ahead two steps and back one, two ahead and back one. Then, months passed without speaking to each other and then the time of God, which appears to be [the time of the] Chinese. Slowly. This is wisdom, the wisdom of the Chinese. And the bishops who were in difficulty were studied case by case and in the case of the bishops, in the end dossiers came on to my desk about each one. And, I was responsible for signing the case of the bishops. Then, the case of the agreement returned, the drafts on my desk. They were spoken about. I gave my ideas. The other discussed and went ahead. I think of the resistance, the catholics who have suffered. It’s true. And, they will suffer. Always, in an agreement, there is suffering. They have a great faith. And they write. They make messages arrive that what the Holy See, what Peter says is that which Jesus says. The martyrial faith of these people today goes ahead. They are the greats! I signed the agreement. At least, the plenipotentiary letters for signing that agreement that I had signed. I am responsible. The others that I appointed in all have worked for more than 10 years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a path, a true path. Then, a simple anecdote and a historical datum, two things to finish. When there was that famous communique of an ex-Apostolic Nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me. The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writ was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the Patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God. An anecdote as well: we forget that in Latin America - thanks to God that this is over - we forget that for 350 years it was the king of Portugal and of Spain to appoint the bishops and the Pope only gave jurisdiction. We forget the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Maria Teresa was tired of signing the appointments of bishops and gave jurisdiction to the Vatican Other times, and thanks to God that they aren’t repeated. But, this isn’t that they appoint. No, this is a dialogue about eventual candidates but Rome appoints, the Pope appoints. And, let us pray for the suffering of some who don’t understand and who have at their backs so many years of being clandestine.
What did you experience visiting the museum where KGB prisoners were killed in Vilnius?
"The fact of your history, the history of the Baltic countries. It is a story of invasion, of dictatorships, of crimes, of deportations. When I visited the Museum in Vilnius -- “museum” is a word that makes you think of the Louvre, that museum was a prison, it was the prison where political or religious detainees were taken. I saw the cells, the size of this seat, where they could only stay standing, cells of torture. I saw places of torture where with the cold that they have in Lithuania they took naked prisoners and hit them with water and left them there for hours, for hours... to break their endurance. And then I was in the hall, a great room of the executions and they took the prisoners there by force and [killed them] simply with a blow to the nape of the neck, then they brought out [the bodies] with a mechanical stair toward a truck that threw them in the forest, in a spot... they killed around 40 a day. At the end there were around 15 thousand of them they killed there. This makes up a part of the history of Lithuania and also of the other countries, but that which I saw was in Lithuania. Then I went to the place of the large ghetto, where they killed thousands of Jews, then in the same afternoon I went to the monument to the Memory of the convicted, killed, tortured, deported. That day, I tell you the truth, I was destroyed. It made me think of the cruelty. But I tell you, with information that we have today, cruelty isn’t over. The same cruelty is found today in many detention centers. Today, it is found in many prisons. Even overpopulation of a prison is a form of torture, to not live with dignity. A prison today that has a system which does not give the detained the hope of leaving is already a torture. Then we saw on the television the cruelties of the ISIS terrorists, that burned alive that pilot from Jordan, slit the throats of those Coptic Christians on the beaches of Libya, and many others. Today, cruelty is not finished. In all the world it is happening. And this message I would like to give to you, as journalists. This is a scandal, a grave scandal of our culture, of our society".