Pope meets mainland Chinese bishop in first ever public meeting
News of the event gets mixed response from open and underground Catholic
communities in China.
Compiled by Global Pulse staff
October 13, 2016
Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen of Suzhou and pilgrims meet Pope Francis on Oct. 5.
Photos of their meeting went viral on social media among Catholics. (Photo
Pope Francis has met with a bishop from mainland China in the first ever public
meeting between the head of the church and a Chinese bishop, ucanews.com
The event met a mixed reception among the open and underground Catholic
communities in China due to ongoing talks between the Vatican and China's
ruling Communist Party that have divided the faithful.
Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen of Suzhou* from China's eastern Jiangsu province met
the pope in a public audience at St Peter's Square on October 5.
Bishop Xu, who is approved by the Vatican and Beijing, brought with him a group
of flag waving Chinese pilgrims who joined in on posed photographs with the
Due to the fraught nature of the Vatican's relationship with the Chinese
communist government, similar meetings between the pope and a Chinese bishop
were always conducted privately in the past.
China-based publishing house Faith Press published a commentary by Father Han
Qingping, an active blogger in the open church community, which said the public
meeting was important because of the perceived growing accord between the
Vatican and Beijing, especially regards to negotiations "focused particularly
on the appointment of bishops."
"Such a meeting may not be news for priests and laypeople in Europe and America
or even in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. But for the China Church which has gone
through several decades of winters, it is undoubtedly a sign of the spring
blossom," Father Han said.
"It is for the first time specially arranged for Bishop Xu and his pilgrims to
meet with the pope, and to shake hands and greet him. How could it not draw our
special attention?" said Father Han.
No news on Vatican Radio
Despite the significance of the Oct. 5 meeting, the Chinese service of Vatican
Radio did not carry the news even though it ran a story about Pope Francis
greeting a group of Wenzhou laypeople in the Vatican in May 2015.
Father John, an open priest in northern China, believed that the meeting was an
"Vatican officials might want to show the event was just a coincidence. But it
is known that meeting the pope, even in a public audience, needs
pre-arrangement," the priest told ucanews.com.
"The greeting perhaps is to show the China-Vatican negotiation is smooth and
relations are good," he added.
An underground priest in eastern China, who asked not to be named, did not
"The pope has fallen into a trap as the meeting created an impression that he
welcomed a bishop sent by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association," he said.
The association is accused of controlling the church for the government.
*ucanews.com could not reach Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen for comment before