CARTOON: Pope Signs Off on Suffering Chinese Faithful

CARTOON: Pope Signs Off on Suffering Chinese Faithful
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The pope suffers his Chinese children to come unto him, via Beijing.

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Pope Francis admitted Tuesday that a landmark deal with authorities in Beijing over bishop appointments will cause suffering among members of the underground church in China.

The agreement, the text of which remains secret, gives authorities in Beijing the right to propose new bishops before the Pope signs off on the nomination.

“It’s true, they will suffer. There is always suffering in an agreement,” the pope told the Associated Press.

Catholics in China, thought to total about 12 million souls, have been split between those loyal to the Vatican and those who recognize the authority of government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association since 1951.

Pope Francis has hailed the deal as a solution to decades-old divisions that have riven the Church in China, and a step towards the dream of a united Church pursued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The disagreement hinges on the Vatican's insistence that the pope maintain the right to name bishops and the Communist Party of China's view that this is an infringement of China's sovereignty.

But critics, including Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, have called the pope out for selling out to China's authorities and deserting members of the underground church, who have practiced in secret under the threat of persecution for decades.

Pope Francis told AP that he takes full responsibility for the deal, though it is hard to see how this can be the case given his distance from the potential repercussions.

Members of the underground Church, thought to number several million, are frequently detained and otherwise harassed, and while the Pope pointed out that one its bishops has signed off on the deal, it remains unclear what the agreement means for those on the ground in China.

There may be local consequences, too. The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and officials in both Taipei and the Vatican have affirmed that the deal with China will not affect this status quo.

However, given the pope's apparent willingness to permit suffering among his most loyal followers in order to secure rapprochement with China, the future of bilateral relations between Taipei and the Holy See must be viewed as deeply uncertain.

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