Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin appears on Italian news channel Tg2 Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin appears on Italian news channel Tg2 

Parolin on Agreement with China: I think it is moving towards renewal

Appearing on Italian news channel Tg2, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin speaks about the Holy See’s Agreement with China on the nomination of bishops; the conditions for self-defence in war; the role of Catholics in politics, and Pope John Paul I as a reformer.

By Gabriello Ceraso

Cardinal Parolin on Friday evening offered an in-depth analysis of the war in Ukraine and its international implications as well as the Holy See’s relations of trust with China and Russia in an interview on Italian television news channel Tg2.

Speaking of the Provisional Agreement the Holy See signed with China in 2018, Cardinal Parolin said, “When you negotiate with someone, you must always start from recognizing their good faith. Otherwise, the negotiation makes no sense.” The Cardinal said he is convinced that the Provisional Agreement – aimed at ensuring that all bishops in the country are in communion with the Pope, and are fully Chinese and fully Catholic – will be renewed. He noted that a delegation from the Holy See has returned to China to continue discussions, acknowledging that there have been many difficulties and that there is a long way to go. He added that the journey requires patience to continue going forward in order to see the “seeds” that have been planted sprout despite adverse weather.

Preparing for a meeting with Kirill

The effects of the war on relations with Russia and the Patriarchate of Moscow also featured prominently in the interview. Although originally expected to attend an inter-religious gathering in Kazakhstan at which Pope Francis will be present, Patriarch Kirill has since cancelled his trip. No reasons for the cancellation have been given, “but I believe,” said the Cardinal, that a meeting between Pope Francis and Kirill should be “well-prepared” in order to be effective. He noted that the dialogue between the Patriarchate and the Catholic Church continues despite ecclesial traditions, as in Orthodoxy, that see churches characterized by greater identification with the authorities of the country in which they operate. “We respect this reality,” he said, when it is lived with moderation, adding, “This does not invalidate the dialogue.”

A possible papal visit to Ukraine

Cardinal Parolin also spoke about diplomatic relations with Ukraine, saying there has been no change. He said Pope Francis is determined to visit the country, as the Pope has said publicly, when conditions are right and when such a visit could contribute to the cause of peace and not simply be a photo opportunity.

However, the Cardinal reiterated that, from a diplomatic perspective, the Holy See remains open to all, both the aggressors and those who have been attacked, with the aim of arriving at a truce and seeking a lasting peace. Cardinal Parolin said he sees John Paul I as a model, pointing to his dream of a “just” and “complete” peace – that is, one that satisfies everyone and that takes every aspect into consideration in order to avoid future conflicts.

The conditions for a defensive war

The Cardinal also reaffirmed the condemnation of the arms race and the right of peoples to defend themselves when attacked. There is no contradiction between the two, the Cardinal explained, noting that the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the right of armed defence and an obligation is to stop the aggressor. However, he insisted, the exercise of that right to self-defence must must conform to precise conditions, which the Secretary of State listed, emphasizing that the power of modern means of destruction must be taken into account.

He further explained the reasons for the Pope’s grave concern about the arms race, noting that in 2021 alone, military expenditure amounted to some two trillion dollars. He described the arms race as a “folly” both because of the risk of escalation of all against all, and because resources are taken away from other needs in the world.

Politics suffers from withdrawal of Catholics

Cardinal Parolin then turned to the current Italian political crisis, which will culminate in a general election set for 25 September. The Cardinal acknowledged a tendency in society to relegate religion to the private sphere and said at times Catholics, too, can be sidelined. However, the Cardinal continued, despite the current trend of secularization, the withdrawal of Catholics from civil life is unacceptable. “We cannot accept this,” he said, “because of the social and historical dimension of Christianity.” He continued, “The presence of Catholics in politics is important and the contribution they can make is important. The hope is that, inspired by the Pope's teaching, they can have a complete vision of the issues, for example of life, without focusing on particular aspects, and that they can express this also in the parties in which they are inserted.”

John Paul I: a reformer

Finally, with just two days to go before the beatification of John Paul I, the Cardinal could not fail to speak about the former pontiff, whom he described as a pastor who was close to the poorest people and focused on the essentials of faith and the Gospel.

Pope John Paul I was simple and humble, and certainly not a conservative, he continued. On the contrary, Cardinal Parolin said, he was a true promoter of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, first in his diocese, later in the Patriarchate of Venice, and finally in the universal Church.

Cardinal Parolin added that there is no truth to persistent rumours that the former was poisoned. John Paul I died a natural death, he insisted, citing the documents of the postulation process as well as “incontrovertible testimonies.”

Finally, he said, Pope John Paul I’s teaching on issues such as migration, pandemics, and war, rooted in the Church’s Social Doctrine, is still influential. Cardinal Parolin echoed the words of John Paul I in which he summed up what his commitments would look like today: “We will support everything that can help bring peace to this troubled world.”

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03 September 2022, 12:13