رابطة قدامى الإكليريكية البطريركية المارونية
- Elise Ann Allen
Sep 15, 2020
ROME – Over the past week top officials from both China and the Vatican have given indications that the controversial agreement between the two on the appointment of bishops, which expires at the end of this month, will be renewed.
According to Italian news agency Ansa, Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke to a group of journalists on the margins of a Sept. 14 conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, saying the agreement with China is set to expire “in October,” but that the common intention of both parties is to renew the deal.
The conference Parolin attended was called, “45 years from the Helsinki Accords, Cardinal Silvestrini, and Vatican Ostpolitik.”
His remarks come days after Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, also expressed optimism for the renewal of the agreement during a regular Sept. 10 press conference.
Asked if he was hopeful that China’s deal with the Vatican on the appointment of bishops would be extended for another two years, Lijian said that thanks to efforts from both sides, “the interim agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican has been implemented successfully since it was signed nearly two years ago.”
“Since the beginning of this year, the two sides have lent mutual support to each other amid COVID-19 pandemic, stayed committed to upholding global public health security, and accumulated greater mutual trust and consensuses through a series of positive interactions,” he said.
In this light, Lijian insisted that both China and the Holy See “will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and improve bilateral relations.”
When the coronavirus hit Italy in March, China was among the many nations that sent help, providing both doctors and medical equipment in mid-March when the coronavirus was nearing its peak. Two Chinese charitable organizations also sent health supplies such as face masks to the Vatican Pharmacy to support COVID patients.
The Vatican later issued a public statement thanking China for the assistance, yet made no such gesture toward Taiwan, which also sent donations of food and medical equipment to both the Vatican and numerous religious institutes throughout Rome, despite being one of Taiwan’s sole 14 diplomatic partners and the only one in Europe.
It has long been known that the Vatican under Pope Francis desperately wants formal diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. The 2018 secret agreement on the appointment of bishops was interpreted by many as a step in this direction, and the Vatican’s silence toward Taiwan – officially known as the Republic of China – during the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy was a clear sign to many of just how far the Holy See would go to ensure that the door they have stays open.
It should be no surprise, then, that Parolin’s optimism about the renewal of the deal came on the margins of a conference on the Vatican’s Ostpolitik policy.
Originally, Ostpolitik was a term in the late 1960s to describe normalization of relations between East and West Germany. Later, it also came to refer to efforts under Paul VI to engage Eastern European communist regimes through compromise and agreements with the aim of building on small gains over time.
The same basic approach has been employed for China by each of Paul VI’s successors, including Francis – with the exception, perhaps, of John Paul I, whose 33 days in office didn’t allow much time for international affairs.
In fact, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, the Italian Vatican diplomat featured in Monday’s conference and who once served as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, was a key player in employing this tactic as the Vatican intervened in the bid to reduce tensions between the Soviet Union and western blocs.
Silvestrini participated in each stage of the Helsinki conference on security and cooperation in Europe in 1975, which yielded the Helsinki Accords, signed by 35 nations in an attempt to secure the post-World War II status quo in Europe. Silvestrini also lent a hand in the prep work and implementation of the 1975 conference.
Among other things, the Helsinki Accords enshrined respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, or belief.
Opponents of Pope Francis’s agreement with China on the appointment of bishops have argued that these are the freedoms China has consistently denied to the Catholic Church and other religious denominations for years, and which the deal allows them to perpetuate without repercussion.
However, both the Holy See and China are masters at playing the long game.
Reacting to criticism at conference on religious freedom last spring, Parolin said the Holy See’s vision in making the agreement was to “help advance religious freedom, to find normalization for the Catholic community there.”
He stressed the need to be patient, saying, “history has not been built in one day. History is a long process, and I think we have to put ourselves in this perspective.”
Cardinal Marian Jaworski died this month at the age of 94. His life was intimately connected to that of John Paul II.
Jaworski was born in 1926 and entered the major seminary of Lviv in 1945. Following the occupation of the territory by Soviet troops, he was sent to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland. Ordained a priest in 1950, he continued his studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (Poland) and then at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland). It was during this period, while far from his country, that he met the future Polish pope.
At his death, various commentators recalled how John Paul II thought his life and the life of Cardinal Jaworksi were intertwined not just in their friendship and physical proximity, but in a mystical way.
PBS Frontline once told the story: It was recounted by another friend of the Holy Father’s, Stefan Swiezawski, who explained that John Paul was convinced that certain important moments in his life were connected to his friends’ suffering.
On the night of John Paul II’s election to the papacy, Bishop Andrzej Deskur suffered a devastating stroke … John Paul II spent much of the first day of his papacy at the bedside of his beloved friend and supporter. He reflected on Deskur’s illness with his former teacher, Stefan Swiezawski. … Swiezawski recalled their conversation: “John Paul II spoke about his conviction that the most important events in his life have been connected to the suffering of his friends. He believes that Bishop Deskur’s stroke was a way of paying for his election to the papacy and also that his elevation to cardinal was intimately tied to the tragedy of another friend, Father Marian Jaworski, who had lost his hand in a railway accident.”
Cardinal Jaworski lost his hand because of a train accident. But he was on the train because of the future John Paul II.
It was June of 1967 and Karol Wojtyla (the future John Paul II) had been called to Rome to be made a cardinal. Wojtyla already had had something on his schedule for the date of the consistory — a trip to Olsztyn, Poland — and he asked Jaworski to take his place. It was during this trip that the accident occurred, which led to the amputation of Jaworski’s hand.
But why would John Paul II think of his elevation to the role of cardinal as somehow linked to such an unfortunate tragedy? What could John Paul II mean? How could his friends’ suffering somehow be related to the grace of his elevation to cardinal and then to the Throne of Peter?
The Holy Father’s mysterious reflection is rooted in his sense of what St. Paul speaks about: That all the baptized form one body, the body of Christ.
Since we are all joined in the mysticus corpus, our actions affect each other spiritually, both for good and ill. My sins wound not only myself, but the whole body. As well, the sacrifices we unite to the Cross can become, through the power of God, channels of grace, for ourselves and for the whole body.
John Paul II felt that in the great battle of good and evil underway until the end of time, and in light of the role he was destined to have in the Church, that his friends’ sacrifices, accepted with docility and holiness, were channels for the great graces given to him in his mission as Vicar of Christ.
Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro published an essay at La Civiltà Cattolica on Sept. 5 examining the question "What kind of government does Francis exercise, and how do we interpret it in the light of these seven years?" As we await what will be the Holy Father's second encyclical (not counting Lumen Fidei, which was largely written by Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict XVI), and the promulgation of the long-awaited apostolic constitution reforming the Vatican curia, the question could scarcely be more important.
For Spadaro, and I think there is no reason to dispute this, he views Francis' efforts at reforming the church through the lens of the pope's Jesuit formation. Spadaro looks back to the Council of Trent and the instructions Ignatius of Loyola gave to the Jesuit attendees at the council. "The interesting thing is that [Ignatius] did not go into doctrinal and theological questions at all," Spadaro writes. "He was more concerned with the testimony of life that the Jesuits were to give. This already gives an initial indication of how Ignatius understood the reform of the Church, and in a context as singular and important as that of a General Council. For him it was primarily a matter of reforming people from within."
Francis resists any effort to alienate spiritual reform from pastoral or structural reforms; the conversion of all three must go hand-in-hand. This necessitates a further consideration from Spadaro: "So aiming at conversion is not an ineffective spiritually pious project, but an act of radical government."
I wonder how much of the criticism of Francis comes down to resistance to this radical quality. Advocates on both the left and the right know what they want and have convinced themselves that they know what is best for the church. The only thing lacking in the achievement of their vision is the power to effect it. But Pope Francis does not want to replace conservative rules and ideas with liberal ones. He wants to convert the whole church away from such ideological binaries.
You see this, according to Spadaro, in the emphasis Pope Francis puts on emptying of self as a prerequisite to authentic conversion:
For Francis the reform is rooted in this emptiness of self, which he recognizes in one of the New Testament passages he loves most and quotes often: Philippians 2:6-11. There is the true reform. If it were not so, if it were only an idea, an ideal project, the fruit of one's own desires, even good ones, it would become yet another ideology of change.
The phrase has all the poignancy that accuracy alone confers: "yet another ideology of change."
Pope Francis, then, as Spadaro writes, sees "discernment itself that is the systematic structure of reform" and from which alteration in the institution takes place. While it is true, as Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, No. 111, that the church is "a pilgrim and evangelizing people, always transcending every institutional expression, however necessary," that it is the Holy Spirit who creates the institution, it is also true, as Spadaro writes, that "Spirit and institution for Francis never deny each other."
We all make references to "the institutional church." We should stop doing so. It is the beginning of Gnosticism.
Spadaro states that Pope Francis has no "agenda" in the usual sense of the word. Instead, he wants to discern those moments when an authentic self-emptying permits a genuine encounter. Pointing to the Holy Father's 2018 letter to the bishops of Chile, in which the pope admitted he had erred gravely in assessing the situation, Spadaro writes: "Pre-packaged ideas are of no use and information may not be balanced and truthful: only encounter and immersion allow wise government." And, he adds, "And above all, there is no discernment regarding ideas, even ideas of reform, but on the real, on stories, on the concrete history of the Church, because reality is always superior to the idea."
In a note sent to Civiltà to clarify how all this applies to the pope's commitment to synodality, Pope Francis writes that when discernment is not properly engaged, the result is:
an atmosphere that ends up distorting, reducing and dividing the synod hall into dialectical and antagonistic positions that in no way help the mission of the Church. Because everyone entrenched in 'his truth' ends up becoming a prisoner of himself and his positions, projecting his own confusions and dissatisfactions onto many situations. Thus, walking together becomes impossible.
In this same clarifying note to Civiltà, Francis explains precisely how this dynamic manifested itself at the synod on the Amazon:
There was a discussion … a rich discussion … a well-founded discussion, but no discernment, which is something different from arriving at a good and justified consensus or relative majority. We must understand that the Synod is more than a parliament; and in this specific case it could not escape this dynamic. On this subject it has been a rich, productive and even necessary parliament; but no more than that. For me this was decisive in the final discernment, when I thought about how to shape the exhortation.
I have no reason to doubt this, and I am sure it was true of the twin synods on the family in 2014 and 2015, as well as the synod on the Amazon. But that raises a question: The pope agreed to the recommendations of the synods on the family on the highly contested issue of access to the sacraments for those who are divorced and remarried, but he balked at the Amazon synod's proposal for ordaining married men. I wonder if the ongoing hostility to the pope's decisions in Amoris Laetitia, the post-synodal exhortation that followed the first two synods, altered the pope's perception of how to proceed? Put differently, did the hostility from the pope's opponents — the refusal to embrace what the synods approved and he ratified — work?
The decision not to approve the Amazon synod's call for ordaining viri probati surely also involved considerations beyond those of discernment. The one that seems most obvious, but not mentioned here, is that a local synod should not make a decision that could affect the universal church.
One issue that Spadaro does not even mention is the role of women. The Amazon synod called specifically for a recognized ministry for women leading their communities. What is more, the pope had to look out at the assembled members of the synod and wonder why there were so few women and why the few women who were there did not even have a vote. I recognize that for a large section of the church, the issue of women in ministry is even more neuralgic than Communion for the divorced and remarried, but the current state of affairs is inexplicable and inexcusable and there are concrete steps Pope Francis could take to ameliorate it.
An additional concern that the article does not address is that the pope's description of discernment sounds profound and poetic but lacking in concreteness. The late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously observed, "You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose." There are enormous differences, of course, between governing in the Empire State and governing the Curia Romana, but I am willing to bet the similarities are somewhat frightening as well. It is not that I imagine the pope is naive. In years of talking to those who collaborate with him closely, naivete is a word I have never heard. At age 83, however, you have to ask if the kind of conversion(s) he is seeking is (are) possible?
It is wrong to fault Spadaro for not writing the article some of us wanted to read. His insights into the specifically Jesuit influences guide the pope are fascinating. But Francis, and his commitment to synodality, was also shaped by his tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and, specifically, with CELAM, the Latin American bishops' conference, which has been the locus and the focus of the most fecund post-conciliar developments in theology. CELAM is the prototype of synodality for the universal church, so its influence on Francis' thoughts in this area are worthy of sustained analysis as well as this look at the Jesuit influences.
Critics will be found on all sides. One friend wrote to say he thought the article achieved the opposite of its intended effect, that it painted a papacy "stuck in neutral." Another worried that the pope was substituting a shamanistic spirituality for a sound theology of synodality. Edward Pentin, at the National Catholic Register, unsurprisingly accused Spadaro of misrepresenting the facts of this pontificate because "Francis has closed down dialogue and largely refuses to meet with those whom he views as being 'ideological' or 'rigid' or simply holding another vision for the Church more faithful to Tradition and orthodoxy." More faithful?
It is easy to ignore Pentin and those who oppose the pope no matter what. And you do not need to agree with the critics who support the pope but are worried that the papacy has lost its sense of mission. Yet, the Holy Father and those who counsel him need to hear these latter concerns. At its core, the Spadaro article shows a pope who understands the Petrine ministry is fundamentally about unity, that the only unity available to the church is one created by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that all the plans in the world are no substitute for discerning the Spirit's will for the church.
What is less clear is if it is possible to govern the church without some kind of program. And, perhaps more difficult to answer is the question of how to overcome the current sectarianism within the church. These are all related to the discernment Pope Francis desires, but they are distinct and they need attention also. We are broken vessels trying our best to carry the precious gift of faith that has been given us. This pope of surprises may yet prove himself capable of leading the church into the bold reforms the Second Vatican Council envisaged and that have only been partially achieved.
[Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.]
Quelques heures après l’incendie qui a ravagé le camp de migrants de Lesbos, en Grèce, le pape François est revenu, jeudi 10 septembre devant des responsables associatifs, sur la question délicate de la gestion des flux de migrations.
Jesus spent 40 days in YeShimon, which means “Place of Desolation.”
John the Baptist, who preached in the Judean Desert, calls himself “the voice crying in the wilderness,” foretold by Isaiah (Matthew 3):
In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea [and] saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert,‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”
After he was baptized by John, Jesus spent 40 days in the Judean wilderness, where he overcame the temptations of Satan (Mark 1):
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
Land of the Bible describes the Judean Desert terrain as “rugged,” with deep canyons worn into the rock by rivers; some of which flow all year long to create valuable oases where people and animals alike can find respite from the unaccommodating environment, while others have long since run dry, leaving various wadis to explore. Because the mountains and rock formations are mostly sandstone, the landscape is constantly changing due to wind and water erosion.
From a historical perspective, exploring the Judean Desert brings us closer to the ancestors of our Catholic faith. There are many biblical settlements found within and just outside the bounds of the Judean Desert. Jerusalem, for example, is on the western border of the desert, while the Dead Sea (the lowest elevation in the world at 1,412 feet below sea level) is where the desert terminates in the east at the Jordan River.
Within the Judean Desert lie the biblical cities of Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron, to name a few. Also located in the Judean Desert are the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the mid-20th century, as well as several Early Christian monasteries, some of which are still active.
There are a variety of archaeological sites within the desert, including the fortresses of Masada and Horkenya.
Take a look at our slideshow to behold some of the captivating sights of the Judean Desert.