What is behind the clash between the Pope and the traditionalists | Massimo Franco

Of Massimo Franco

Relations with China and Russia, the secret agreement with Beijing and the conflicts with the Orthodox world are under scrutiny, while Taiwan and other delicate issues remain open such as a possible renunciation

In his address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, Monday 9 January Francis he explained that it continues a respectful and constructive dialogue between the Holy See and Xi Jinping’s China. And for this reason it was agreed to extend for another two years the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, stipulated in Beijing in 2018.

In addition, the Pope repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict started by Russia on Ukrainian territory.

I’m two thorny issues of Vatican foreign policy. And they will become decisive in the clash with the traditionalist front, and beyond, in view of the next Conclave, when will be

The break with Father Georg

Yesterday’s conversation between Francis and the former prefect of the papal household and secretary of Benedict, monsignor Georg Gnsweinbrought the spotlight on the bitter controversies that followed the funeral of the Pope emeritus.

But behind a personal break that took place almost in slow motion over the years, and only a harbinger of new poisons from the pastcreaks are perceived destined to weigh on the future of the Church.

The choices of diplomacy under the papacy of Francis are proving to be divisive. They add to the problem of resignation, which is being tried to regulate almost ten years after Benedict’s resignation. The solution would be entrusted to a small group led by the Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former rector of the Gregorian University and trusted canonist of the Pope.

The hypotheses on the possible renunciation

Renunciation and foreign policy are two themes that often crop up together. But on relations with China, as on those with the Vladimir Putin’s Russiathe currents that press for a different approach are more homogeneous.

On the resignation, on the other hand, there are differences between both Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s supporters and opponents. Some Catholic traditionalists have already said that the resignation of Joseph Ratzinger must remain an isolated, exceptional case. And who, on the other hand, is ready to accept that it becomes a practice, in the hope that Francis will leave the pontificate as soon as possible: a sign of insecurity.

The disputes over the secret agreement with China

On the agreement with Beijing, on the other hand, the fronts are well defined. The text of the agreement remains secret: in the sense that its contents are not known, due to the Chinese will. And this already creates distrust.

And the Vatican’s extreme caution in condemning the crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, and its silence on the persecution of Chinese Muslim Uyghurs in the far west of the country, are considered a byproduct of the 2018 agreement.

For traditionalists, the confirmation that Francis would have sacrificed the Chinese clandestine Catholic Church on the altar of dialogue with Xi; and that for the same reasons he did not protest sufficiently for the arrest last May of the cardinal emeritus of Hong Kong, Joseph Zenover ninety, later released by the Chinese police on bail, and received by Francis in recent days.

The Taiwan knot

Zen an irreducible critic of the agreements with Beijing. And behind him we can guess a current of the Church convinced that the agreement will end with the pontificate of Francis, explains a cardinal.

The judgment of these Catholic sectors that Xi is a ruthless dictator, who would try to indoctrinate Catholics and arrive at a state church, counting on the fears of the Holy See of undermining dialogue.

But it is not clear where the concerns come from and to what extent they mix with hostility to the Argentine pontiff. The fact that the question crosses the problem of the independence of Taiwan, the island that China would like to recover and which is a bastion of the West in Asia, further complicates the matter.

The balance between Moscow and Beijing

The Vatican continues to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but not with China: again at the behest of Beijing.

And the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Chinese solidarity with Putin have also ended up involving relations between papal Rome and Moscow.

The basic criticism leveled against the Argentine pontificate and the Secretariat of State for having privileged relations with autocratic regimes in this decade. With China, in the long-term hope of converting at least a part of that immense country; and with Russia, to encourage dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. But the results so far have proved meager.

Xi Jinping does not withdraw from a communist nationalism that sees religion as a phenomenon only to be normalized. it is indicative that on the rare occasions in which it would have been possible for him to meet Francis, he took great care not to do so: despite the cordial papal availability.

The contrasts with the Russian patriarch

As for Russia, the Vatican mediation was ignored by Putin. And as a result, the openings have regressed, culminating in the embrace in Cuba in 2016 with the Muscovite patriarch Kirill: the same one that today Francis calls Putin’s altar boy.

And this while in the West there are those who accuse Bergoglio of having held, at least at the beginning, a position that is not clear enough against Moscow.

On Russia, even if there was a different analysis on Benedict’s part, there was never any news of it. When asked for a comment on the Ukrainian question, the Monastery let it be known that the Pope Emeritus preferred to remain silent.

January 9, 2023 (change January 9, 2023 | 22:53)

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What is behind the clash between the Pope and the traditionalists | Massimo Franco

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