China-Vatican Provisional Agreement

di: Paul Han Qing Ping

Chinese Version

On the afternoon of September 22, 2018, the news of the signing of a provisional agreement between the Chinese and Vatican delegations on the appointment of the bishops immediately became the headline news all over the world. Especially in the Catholic Church in China, in addition to conveying the message itself, people began to express their feelings and opinions: supportive words and corresponding expressions, such as “big surprise”, “finally”, “not an easy course”, “thank God with prayer and blessings” etc., began to fill the internet spaces. At the same time, some disappointing and even angry statements and emotions, such as “selling out”, “surrender”, “disgusting”, and so on, have also appeared one after another. The most representative one is the short article titled The Announcement of “Having Nothing to Say” by Cardinal Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. In addition to using the word “nonsense” several times, he also asks the Holy See «what people should accept and obey after all?». However, fortunately, he did not pat the table again as he did in an interview with Reuters recently while accusing the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin of «not having true faith», «being only a secular and excellent diplomat and should resign for his grave mistakes» and so on.

In the face of a historic but sensitive diplomatic move, it is expected that it will cause global attention. People with different backgrounds and positions will of course have different responses, interpretations, and perceptions. Over the years, the disputes and even quarrels surrounding the possible agreement were numerous. No matter how difficult the “labor” process had been, nor how many disputes and quarrels had happened, now the “baby” is born, the parties concerned can only face a “post-agreement era”: joyful embrace, indifference, strong rejection, and total abandonment are all possible choices. For me, the reasons why the China-Vatican provisional agreement has become the focus of global attention and the hotly discussed topic can be said as the following:

First, although the agreement in theory is simply a diplomatic act between the two States of China and Vatican (don’t forget, the Vatican is a sovereign state, although the area is only 0.44 square kilometers, the population is less than 600 people), and the signing officials from both sides are only of the level of deputy ministers from the ministry of foreign affairs, its symbolism and representation far exceeds the two countries in the ordinary sense. On the one hand, when China signed the agreement, it actually recognized the Vatican as a sovereign state headed by the Pope, and the Universal Catholic Church with the Pope as the highest shepherd. At the same time, it gave up the principle and position that «foreign forces must not interfere in China’s internal affairs» (the appointment of the bishop is regarded as one of «internal affairs») that had been firmly held for the past 60 years. That is to say, the Vatican and the Chinese Catholic Church can communicate openly in the future, instead of «secretly getting in touch» as in the past so as not to anger the Chinese government and not to bring trouble to certain groups and individuals of the Catholic Church in China. Therefore, on the other hand, we can say that the agreement is not a “State and State” agreement, but a “State and State+Catholic Church” one. This “Church” naturally also includes the “Church in China”!

Secondly, since the above agreement is between “(Chinese) State and (Vatican) State+Catholic Church”, China has actually signed agreement with Catholic Churches in the world that are in communion with the Pope. The number of Catholics around the world is close to 1.3 billion, not far from China’s 1.4 billion population. Although the Catholic Churches of various countries are not the government of that country, through relations with Churches in various countries, China has actually built links with countries with Catholic Churches through the non-political, non-economic, non-diplomatic, and non-military channels. By no mean can this be a simple act of the two States. For this very reason, the Vatican is not signing an agreement simply in the name of the “Vatican City State”, but is leading the global Catholic Church and even many other religious groups to change its relations with China. If a government and other organizations would have liked to establish good relations with China, this would create opportunities and conditions for them. If the opposite is true, the Vatican would have created troubles for them. Again, by no means can this be ignored by other countries and organizations like what they do with the simple two-state act.

Thirdly, following the signing of this agreement, both Cardinal Parolin, the Secretary of State, and Greg Burke, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, stated that «the nature of the agreement is pastoral, not political», «it is a beginning, not an end», «it’s aim is to help the Catholic Church in China to achieve harmony and unity, having Bishops both in communion with the Bishop of Rome and recognized by the Chinese authorities». However, regardless of the position and starting point of the Vatican, for those organizations and individuals who only know how to use political and ideological microscopes to see everything, they will still judge it from a political and ideological perspective. Therefore, those organizations and individuals, including some governments and religious figures, who believe that the signed China-Vatican agreement “has touched their political and ideological cheese”, will for sure shout out loudly: «Behold, the wolf is coming, but the shepherd is selling out the flock…». It is against this background that the Pope and the Holy See under his leadership, who have always been regarded as a defender of morality and justice, have become the object of many people’s angry criticism: «We value and trust you so much, but you have let us be greatly disappointed!».

All in all, although the agreement has been talked about for a long time, and the parties concerned have been waiting for a long time as well with different moods, the official signing of the China-Vatican Provisional Agreement is considered to be “the indicator” of diplomatic ties between the two. At least it shows that what the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had repeatedly said over the years (“The contact and communication between China and Vatican is open and effective!”) was not merely to play around with the reporters. It also shows that Pope Francis and the Holy See have been taking China’s Church affairs as a top priority, even in face of many pressures and risks. For this reason, they deserve our respect and gratitude! I can understand the feelings of those who feel that they have been “sold out” by the agreement, and can also emphasize with their inner sadness. But I cannot accept the attitude of those organizations and individuals who seem to support and care about the Church in China, but in reality are utilizing the situation to obtain their hidden goal and agenda. This is nothing but exploiting the pain of the long-suffering victims, just like the former Papal envoy to the United States, Archbishop Viganò and the forces behind him, who had openly asked Pope Francis to resign!

       A few days ago, a friend in Europe asked me through WeChat about the “interpretation” of the agreement that might be signed. I answered her this way: «Both the international and domestic situations are changing rapidly and making people feel dizzy and disoriented. But this just shows that the wheels of history are rolling forward, no one can reverse them. The surfers of the times is to move with the waves, going along with the tides of nature, instead of going against the trend or sitting still till death comes… The evolutionary process is equally applicable to social life, not just in the biological world!»

       Now that the agreement has been signed, my “interpretation” remains the same!


中梵临时性协议引发世界关注之我见

 2018年9月22日下午,中国和梵蒂冈双方代表团就主教任命问题签署临时性协议的消息一经传出,立即成为全球刷屏的头条新闻。特别在中国的天主教会内,人们除了传递消息本身外,也开始纷纷表达自己的感受和意见:在“惊喜”、“终于”、“不容易啊”、“感谢天主,祈祷祝福”等支持性的词语及相应表情符号满天飞的同时,一些失望甚至愤怒的语句和表情符号如“出卖”、“投降”、“恶心”等也出现了。最具代表性的依然来自香港荣休主教陈日君枢机的《一个“什么都没说”的公告》一文,除了连用几个“废话”外,也质问教廷到底要让人接受和服从什么?不过,好在他没有像日前在接受路透社采访时那样,再次拍着桌子公开指责教廷国务卿帕罗林没真信仰,只是一个世俗的优秀外交官,应该引咎辞职云云。

         面对一个颇具历史性和争议性的外交动作,引发全球高度关注乃情理之中的事。不同背景和立场的人对之产生不同的反应、解读和认知自然也不同。这些年来,围绕传言中的协议出现的争论甚至谩骂也已经多的不可胜数。但,难产归难产、争论归争论,如今这个婴儿已经呱呱坠地了,相关各方只能面对一个“后协议时代”:喜悦拥抱、冷淡应对、强烈排斥、甩袖而去等都是有可能的选择,此不必多言。此次中梵临时性协议之所以会在瞬间成为全球关注的焦点和争论的热点,在笔者看来,原因不外如下几个方面:

       一、理论上来说,协议虽然是中梵两国(不要忘了,梵蒂冈是一个主权国,虽然面积只有0.44平方公里,人口只有不到6百人)之间的外交行为,而且仅仅由双方的外交部副部长级别的官员签署,但其象征性和代表性却远超出普通意义上的两国之交。一方面,中国在签署该协议时,实际上是首先承认了以教宗为首的梵蒂冈主权国的地位,和以教宗为最高牧人的普世天主教会,同时又放弃了过去60年来一直坚持的“外国势力不得干涉中国内政”(主教任命被视为“内政”之一)的原则和立场。也就是说,梵蒂冈与中国的天主教会之间今后可以公开打交道了,而不必像过去那样只能“暗渡陈仓”,以免刺激到中国政府,并可能给中国教会的某些团体和个人带来麻烦。因此,另一方面我们可以说,该协议并非简单的“国与国”之间的协议,而是“国与国+教”之间的协议,这个“教”自然也包括在中国的“教”!

       二、既然上述协议是“(中)国与(梵)国+(天主)教“之间的协议,也就是说中国与世界各国内与罗马教宗共融的天主教会签署了协议。而且,全世界天主教会人数已接近13亿,与中国的14亿人口相去不远。虽然各国天主教会并非该国政府,但通过与各国教会的关系,中国实际上已经从非政治、经济、外交、军事的层面同有天主教会的国家实现了链接。 这又岂能是简单的两国之交呢?但正因如此,如今与中国走近并签署协议的梵蒂冈也不是简单地以“梵蒂冈城国”的身份和名义在这样做,而是带领着全球天主教会,甚至不少其他宗教团体,在改变同中国的关系。如果一国政府和其他组织本来就希望同中国建立良好关系,这等于是给他们创造了机会和条件,如果相反,则无疑是梵蒂冈给他们制造了麻烦。这怎能像简单的两国之交那样被其他国家和组织忽略不计呢?

       三、紧随这协议的签署,不论是教廷国务卿帕罗林枢机主教还是新闻室主任伯克先生,都声明说该协议是“牧灵性质的,而非政治性质的”,“是个开端,而非终点”,“旨在帮助中国的天主教会早日实现和好与合一,拥有与罗马主教共融,同时也被中国当局承认的主教”。然而,不论梵方立场和出发点如何,对那些只懂得用政治和意识形态的显微镜透视一切的组织和个人,他们依然会从政治和意识形态的角度来评断它。于是,凡是认为中梵签署协议就是动了他们的“政治和意识形态奶酪”的组织和个人,包括一些国家政府和宗教人士,自然会不顾一切地高喊“看哪,狼来了,主人却出卖了羊群……”正是在这种情形下,一向被视作道义楷模的罗马教宗及其领导下的教廷便成了许多人唾弃的对象:“我们对你们那么看重和信任,但你们却让我们大大地失望了!”

       总而言之,虽然此前已经风言风语了好长时间,也让各方以不同心情猜测等待了好久,此次中梵临时协议的正式签署,算是“另一只靴子落地了”。它至少说明,中国外交部发言人这些年来常说的“中梵之间的接触和沟通是积极有效的”这句话不是搪塞之词,同时也说明,教宗方济各及其领导下的教廷真的把中国教会事务当成了重中之重,而且顶着压力、冒着风险坚持到了今天。就为此,他们配得我们的敬仰和感激!我很能理解那些觉得被协议“出卖”了的人们的心情,更明白他们内心难过的状态,但我绝不认同那些貌似支持和关心中国教会,实际上却在借题发挥,欲达到潜藏在个人内心深处但又不便直言之目的的组织和个人。他们不过是在利用长期受害者的痛苦罢了——就像不久前高喊着要教宗方济各“引咎辞职”的前教廷驻美国大使维甘诺总主教及其背后的势力!

       两天前,一位身在欧洲的友人通过微信询问我对有可能签署的协议的“解读”,我这样回答她说:“国际国内形势风云突变,令人眼花缭乱。但这正好说明,历史的车轮滚滚向前,无人能逆转。时代的弄潮儿就是要顺势而动,与自然携手并进,而不是逆势而行或坐以待毙……进化过程同样适用于社会生活,不仅仅是在生物界!”

       现在协议已经签署了,我的“解读”依然如故!

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