Chinese Whispers II

Africa Pope

Why is so much about Pope Francis so profoundly unsatisfactory?

In the interview on the plane back from Tallin reporters were eager to revisit the Vigano accusations which Francis has side-stepped on the flight from Dublin. The anglophone journalists (who were most likely to return to the subject) were sidelined by papal aides, who sought to limit questions to the Baltic visit.

It was Francis himself who raised the subject of the recent negotiations with the Chinese (details of which have yet to be published).  He graciously gave credit to devoted Vatican diplomats who had worked to secure a satisfactory out-come. Nevertheles, he very properly accepted responsibility for the full implications himself.

All well and good. But then came the reference to the Vigano affair and letters he had received:

When there was that famous communique of an ex-Apostolic Nuncio, the episcopates of the world wrote me, saying clearly that they felt close, that they were praying for me. The Chinese faithful wrote and the signature of this writing was from a bishop, let’s say it this way, of the traditional Catholic Church and from a bishop of the Patriotic Church, together and faithful, both of them. For me, it was a sign from God.

The agreement with the Chinese government – which Cardinal Parolin had lauded in terms of a major geopolitical coup – was being domesticated and made self-referential. The letter from recently reconciled Chinese bishops was being interpreted as a ‘sign from God’, which somehow justified Francis’s failure to respond to adverse testimony.

In a single phrase, he had transformed a decision about the future of millions of faithful Catholics into a vindication of his own intransigence!

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