Vatican City – Chinese Catholics should move on from past divisions and behave as “good citizens,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday, days after the Vatican signed a landmark deal with the Communist regime in Beijing.
“We can initiate an unprecedented process that we hope will help to heal the wounds of the past.
“We shall restore full communion among all Chinese Catholics, and lead to a phase of greater fraternal cooperation,’’ Francis said in a letter to Chinese Catholics.
The agreement, announced on Saturday, seeks to end the division between Chinese Catholics who for decades remained loyal to the pope.
“It was signed only to attain the Church’s specific spiritual and pastoral aims.
“Also to support and advance the preaching of the Gospel, and to re-establish and preserve the full and visible unity of the Catholic community in China,’’ Francis said.
On Saturday, the Vatican said that the pope recognised seven living bishops of China’s state-sanctioned church and revoked their excommunication, but it was unclear what the Vatican obtained in return.
In a late Tuesday press conference on the way back from the Baltics, the pope said future Chinese bishops would be appointed by the Vatican after a “dialogue” with Chinese authorities.
Beijing had previously insisted on picking its own bishops.
The issue was highly sensitive for a Communist regime with over patchy record on religious freedom and wary of foreign influence over its citizens.
There are almost 10 to 12 million Catholics in China.