In March 2013, in a little more than 24 hours, the two took office as heads of two states that have cut relations since 1951. The paths of Francis and Xi Jinping seemed destined to cross. Ever since he assumed the papacy Francis has set the rapprochement to China and the Chinese Catholic community as a priority. As the first Jesuit Pope, Jorge Bergoglio showed signs of wanting to follow the same path traced five centuries ago by his ancestors of the Society of Jesus in their approach to the Middle Kingdom, based on a strategy of "adaptation" and tolerance towards Chinese culture.
Regardless of the aspects that are yet to be revealed, the provisional agreement for the nomination of bishops announced this week has a historical significance that raises optimism despite the understandable criticism raised by the skeptics. This is a first step that involved courage, diplomatic skill and determination on both sides and for which the commitment of the leadership in the Vatican and in Beijing were, of course, decisive. For the Holy See, the path towards full communion and reunification of the Patriotic Church with the "underground" Church began. On the other hand, it is important to emphasize, at this stage, the eminently pastoral and not too political dimension of this agreement, given that, for this interim understanding, Beijing did not place as a condition the end of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Taiwan, something that will be reviewed in a near future.
Throughout the months leading up to this agreement, several voices rose against the ties with Beijing, warning that the situation of the "underground" Church's followers would not be safeguarded and that the Chinese authorities gave worrying signs of religious intolerance at various levels, with reports of church demolitions and dismantling of crosses. It is true that this agreement arises in this context and not against the background of openness, but precisely because of that it may be particularly meaningful. This being a first step, the door that has now been opened can not be closed again. This is the right side of History. As Fr. Luis Sequeira and Joey Mandia point out in this issue of Plataforma, Macau has been a good example of religious freedom and practice of Catholicism in China. And history has shown us that Macau has been on the road between Rome to Beijing passes through Macau.
Editorial published in weekly newspaper Plataforma Macau on 28.09.2018