In his recent marathon interview with a Mexican journalist, Pope Francis said “relations with China are good, very good” and that two Chinese bishops – one Vatican-appointed from the “underground” Church and one appointed by the Communist government – with whom he recently met “know that they must be good patriots.”
For decades, the Catholic Church in China largely existed underground. It faces persecution from Communist authorities. Pope Francis’ controversial deal with China allows the government to nominate clerics from its state-run “church,” the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, for the Vatican to make bishops.
The bishops and priests in the “underground” Catholic Church are validly ordained.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has repeatedly spoken out about the Vatican-China deal, decrying it as a betrayal of the Catholic faithful in that country.
“My dream is China. I love the Chinese very much,” Pope Francis told Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki. Catholic News Agency (CNA) translated his remarks. “Relations with China are good, very good.”
“The other day two Chinese bishops came to me, one who came from the underground church and the other from the patriotic church, already recognized as brothers,” the pontiff said. “They came here to visit us. This is an important step. They know that they must be good patriots and that they must take care of the Catholic flock.”
CNA’s report continued:
When asked if some Catholics “felt sidelined” by the Sino-Vatican agreement signed in September 2018, the pope responded, “Catholics in general no. Catholics are happy to be united now.”
“In fact Easter was celebrated all together, all together and in all the churches. There were no problems this year,” he said.
Chinese government officials detained Father Peter Zhang Guangjun, an underground priest of the diocese of Xuanhua, after Palm Sunday Mass on April 14. Guanjun was one of three priests held in detention by authorities in China in April 2019.