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|Latest updates: Baldisseri (centre) speaking at a press conference on the synod of bishops at the Vatican.|
Move comes after earlier deal where Pope recognized seven clergy ordained by Beijing
VATICAN CITY: Two Chinese Catholic bishops are to take part for the first time from today in a synod, or advisory body meeting, with peers at the Vatican, the Holy See said.
“The Holy Father had invited Chinese bishops in the past but they were never able to come,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is to preside the synod of bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” from Oct 3-28.
The meeting of more than 300 church officials, outside experts and youth delegates will take place in the shadow of an existential crisis faced by the church owing to cases of widespread sexual abuse of minors by clergy and lay officials in several countries.
On Sept 22, the Vatican and China reached a provisional agreement under which Pope Francis recognised seven clergy initially ordained by Beijing without the Vatican’s approval.
The accord could pave the way for the normalisation of ties between the Catholic Church and the world’s most populous country.
One of those recognised, Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, is to attend the synod along with Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaotin, another member of the Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA), a body created by the Chinese government to administer the church.
They will join discussions on how to encourage young people to make the church their vocation, an official theme that could take a back seat to issues raised last March during a pre-synodal meeting of more than 300 youths in Rome along with 15,000 others online that were presented to church leaders.
“We want to say, especially to the hierarchy of the Church, that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community,” a statement issued at the end of their meeting said.
“The Church should be sincere in admitting its past and present wrongs,” they added.
Pope Francis acknowledged those concerns last week when he told young Christians in Estonia that many “are outraged by sexual and economic scandals that are not met with clear condemnation”.
The pontiff conceded that many also find the Church’s presence “bothersome or even irritating”.
He has called a meeting next February of senior Church leaders from around the world to take up the question of child protection.
Scandals in Australia, Europe, and North and South America have involved widespread claims of abuse – and cover-ups – by clergymen and lay members with one Vatican archbishop describing it as the church’s “own 9/11”.
Germany’s Catholic Church released last month a damning report showing that in Germany alone, almost 3,700 minors were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.
During their pre-synodal meeting, the Catholic youths also urged Church leaders to “speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues”, which they were “already freely discussing without taboo”.
They noted in addition that young women regretted “a lack of leading female role models within the Church”.
A handful of women were to take part in the synod of bishops as official observers. – AFP