Last Sunday, shortly before Pope Francis’ Angelus address, the Holy See Press Office distributed prerelease copies of his prepared remarks to journalists.
The text had Pope Francis devoting a bit of time to speak on the rising tensions in Hong Kong as China recently imposed new laws to crack down on ‘dissidents,’ along with a plea for peace in the area.
Read below what was written for, but not said by Pope Francis:
“Recently, I have followed with particular attention and not without concern the development of the complex situation in Hong Kong, and I wish to show above all my heartfelt closeness to all the inhabitants of that territory. In the current context, the issues addressed are undoubtedly delicate and affect everyone’s life; therefore it is understandable that there is a marked sensitivity in this regard. I hope therefore that all the people involved will know how to face the various problems with a spirit of far-sighted wisdom and authentic dialogue. This requires courage, humility, non-violence, and respect for the dignity and rights of all. I thus express the desire that societal freedom, and especially religious freedom, be expressed in full and true liberty, as indeed various international documents provide for it. I accompany with my constant prayer the entire Catholic community and all people of good will in Hong Kong.”
The prerelease texts were leaked, normally under a news embargo. Shortly before Pope Francis gave his Angelus address, journalists were informed he would not speak the section on Hong Kong.
No reason for the omission was given, leading to some to speculate it was suppressed out of concern it would provoke sensitive government officials in China.
The journalist who broke the news embargo wrote:
“What is not known, however, is what sort of pressure Beijing put on the Pope so that he would not speak on world television about the drama of the former British colony, even in the most delicate and peaceful tones possible.
This episode sheds even worse light – if that is possible – on the famous secret agreement signed between Beijing and the Holy See, whose consequences are being heavily felt in the lives of many Chinese Catholics, despite the propaganda of Vatican media. It is an agreement that risks constituting one of the most sensational errors in the history of Vatican diplomacy, and also one of the worst decisions of the Pope who wanted it and endorsed it, unlike his predecessors.
The question remains unanswered: what strings is Beijing using to gag the Pope?”
Some believe the ‘strings’ being used is the expiration in September of the Vatican’s “provisional agreement” with China, signed back in 2018. The deal recognizes the Pope’s authority to appoint new bishops in China, however, only candidates proposed by the government regime in Beijing can be chosen.
How effective is the “provisional agreement” actually? Since it was signed, no new bishops in the 52 dioceses in China with vacant sees have been installed. The South China Post reported:
“No new heads have been chosen for the 52 bishop-less dioceses in the two years since the agreement was signed, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, who declined to be named.”