In an unprecedented interview with an English-language Chinese newspaper – the “Global Times” – a sub-publication of the “People’s Daily,” the Vatican Secretary of State talks of positive developments in diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, and of the mutual will to face and resolve problematic issues and questions.
In a long Q&A conducted by an Italian correspondent for the Chinese publication, Parolin spoke of progress in the Provisional Agreement between China and the Holy See, he recalled some salient memories of his negotiations with Chinese representatives and he offered his perspective on China’s sinicisation of religions, the process whereby non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture.
Having reiterated the will, on both sides, to look for “practical solutions which concern the lives of real people who desire to practice their faith peacefully and offer a positive contribution to their own country,” the Cardinal noted that “there should not be a surprise if there is criticism, which can arise either in the Church or in China or from elsewhere, of an opening which can appear unprecedented after such a long period of confrontation.”
Indeed, Parolin added “it seems to me human and Christian to show understanding, attention and respect for those who express such criticism.”
The Cardinal acknowledged that not all problems have been resolved, and said that many questions still need to be addressed, adding that “we are facing them with willingness and determination.”
Sinicisation and Inculturation
Regarding China’s sinicisation of religions, Parolin said “Inculturation is an essential condition for a sound proclamation of the Gospel which, in order to bear fruit, requires, on the one hand, safeguarding its authentic purity and integrity and, on the other, presenting it according to the particular experience of each people and culture.”
He said that in the future it will certainly be important to deepen this theme, “especially the relationship between ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicisation,’ keeping in mind how the Chinese leadership has been able to reiterate its willingness not to undermine the nature and the doctrine of each religion.”
Parolin went on to explain that “These two terms, ‘inculturation’ and ‘sinicisation,’ refer to each other without confusion and without opposition: in some ways, they can be complementary and can open avenues for dialogue on the religious and cultural level.”
Regarding his own memories and experience in dealing with Chinese representatives for many years, the Vatican Secretary of State recalled numerous hiccups, concerns and fears that inevitable have arisen throughout the process, but said the will to move forward prevailed on both sides.
He said that particularly important in creating a favourable atmosphere during negotiations, were the many moments of familiarity and friendship that arose, allowing the parties to “share the humanity that unites us beyond the differences that exist between us.”
Cardinal Parolin concluded with an appeal from the Pope to Chinese Catholics “to undertake with courage the path of unity, reconciliation and a renewed proclamation of the Gospel.”
“He sees China not only as a great country but also as a great culture, rich in history and wisdom” he said, reiterating the Holy See’s hope that “China will not be afraid to enter into dialogue with the wider world.”
“In the words of Pope Francis,” he said, “we would say that only by being united can we overcome the globalisation of indifference, working as creative artisans of peace and resolute promoters of fraternity.”
With thanks to Vatican News and Linda Bordoni, where this article originally appeared.