10/18/2016, 15.28
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The "enemies" of Pope Francis

by Bernardo Cervellera

The charge made against AsiaNews that we are against the Pope and in favor of Putin, is an opportunity to outline what motivates our commitment to evangelization. And also to ask for greater professionalism from those who write about the Pope. The Pope does not need public defenders. Facilitating dialogue between "conservatives" and "progressives" to realize the Council and concern ourselves with the world so that it encounters Jesus Christ. Christ’s “enemies” were also his "friends."

Rome (AsiaNews) – Not a day goes by without AsiaNews publishing reports of the Pope's homilies, speeches, audiences, summaries of encyclicals. We are among the fastest agencies to offer what the Pope teaches on-line with translations into Italian, Chinese, Spanish and English. Many Chinese, Indians, Latin Americans are grateful for the speed with which they can access the Pope’s words, particularly since the official sites are too slow. We chose to offer this service, which occupies us every day, even on Sundays, to help the Churches in Asia to receive the words of the Pope as soon as possible. We did this with Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now with Pope Francis.

This service is especially useful to Chinese Catholics. And since the AsiaNews site is sometimes blocked by the Beijing authorities, we have  been given the go ahead to another, more anonymous,  website titled "Ascoltiamo Papa Francesco.net" [Listen to Pope Francis –ed]to republish our articles on Pope Francis in Italian and Chinese (seeing is believing), even if the website owners sign our articles (in a clear breach of professional ethics). But this fact matters little to us: "provided that Christ be announced" as Saint Paul says. (Philippians 1, 18).

Given this experience, we are very sorry - for their lie, rather than for ourselves - that two Vatican experts have cited AsiaNews among "those Catholics who are against Francis and worship Putin." Because both statements, regarding the Pope and Putin, are false. I'm not here to list proof of this: all anyone has to do is actually read the articles we write. For us it is a point of honor - and professionalism – never to comment on what we like most about the powers that be, but all aspects, be they complex or contradictory, of a given event. This, for us, means being of service to the truth.

With regards China, while we exalt its achievements in space and its progress among the great powers of the world, we do not forget the problems of pollution or the Dalai Lama, who for us is almost like a migrant, an exile, similar to those many exiles and migrants Pope Francis embraced in Lampedusa.

Equally so on questions regarding the Catholic Church, while we report on Pope Francis enthusiasm towards Xi Jinping, we can not forgo reporting on the deep sorrow that the silence regarding persecution is causing among underground Christians. Because this regards an estimated 5 million people who for decades have given their lives - sometimes even their blood - for the Gospel and who now, suddenly, have disappeared from public concerns.

In the article in question, an academic among the most optimistic regarding dialogue between China and the Vatican – I remember that in 2005, after the death of John Paul II, he had predicted that a diplomatic agreement would be signed, one that we still await with faith and hope - well, this "super-optimist" says that we are "allied" with "Hong Kong environments, sectors in the US and European right" to push Pope Francis to favor religious freedom over the unity of the Church in China. This opinion, in our view, is unfounded: we have never received visits or awards from a US president or Secretary of State, nor European. But perhaps the super-optimistic academic meant – at most – that we often publish articles by Card. Joseph Zen, who is as concerned about the fate of underground Christians as we are. If I were Pope Francis I would appreciate my Cardinals telling me about the problems that these Christian suffer who are ... very much on the peripheries, the face of the suffering Christ, part of my flock for which I have to give my life.

Unfortunately Pope Francis has few friends of this caliber. He does not even have them amongst expert Vatican journalists. And in fact, my greatest pain is to see the blacklist drawn up in that article: that site, that journalist, that priest, the bishop, the cardinal. I wonder what it's for, and I fear it is being used to divide, thanks to the unguarded work of these coryphaei who are self-appointed "infallible interpreters" of the pope, and defenders of the pope.

When Pope Francis rose to the papacy, it was clear that he wanted to actuate the Second Vatican Council (as he says in his encyclicals). For this it was necessary (and is still necessary) to unite, to dialogue and find a common way among so-called Catholic "conservatives" and "progressives", whose division is one of the nastiest wounds that we have been carrying around for decades. If you listen to everything Pope Francis actually says, then you realize that he really is a Pope of tradition in development, above the "hermeneutic of rupture" typical of conservatives and progressives. Unfortunately it seems that the two parties - also thanks to the secular media – are driving their divisions deeper and hardening their stance even more. It is the Pope’s task, as the symbol of unity of the Church, to work to repair this. It is the task of expert Vatican journalists to outline how this work is progressing. I have no comment on this desire to hand down judgements on who is good and who is bad.

My advice, if you really want to help Pope Francis, is to support his position of dialogue – which is something we would also like to see among the "souls" of the Church in China – drawing out the shred of truth which the Spirit - as our Pope always says – also instills in Muslims, Jews, Hindus ... let alone we Christians.

This work of dialogue with the most distant positions is all the more urgent because of the abyss of secularization and indifference that is engulfing the world. The world believes if the Church is united ( "that all may be one so that the world may believe," says the Gospel of John). This is what should concern us - right and left in the Church – rather than being seen as exhibitionist "superapostles", we should be concerned about how to interest the world in faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, the debate among many Christians is now polarized on "for or against the Pope" and not on the mission to the world. In a similar vein this is seen in all debate on diplomatic relations with China, and no one is discussing how to bring the Christian faith to this country that thirsts for God, before diplomacy.

As for the Pope, the Pope does not need public defenders. First of all, because he is well "armored": a press office, a television center, a newspaper, a radio ... But then, especially since Pope Francis himself said he is not interested in hearing people shout "Long live the Pope!", he wants to hear "Long live Jesus Christ!". And even if it should be the case that the Pope is hurt or criticized, it only conforms him even more to Jesus Christ who was scourged, even struck by his "enemies", but betrayed by his "friends".  You can also betray a person with too much applause.

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