Antonio Socci: The Mystery of the Sunday Angelus

Pope Francis waves to the faithful at the end of the Angelus prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, after celebrating a Mass for the Feast of Rome’s Patrons Saints Peter and Paul, at the Vatican, Monday, June 29, 2020. (Credit: Riccardo De Luca/AP.)

What are the true contents of the still secret agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist regime? And why, after two years, is it still hidden? What is there to hide?

The question is ever more pressing, because last Sunday a true detective story unfolded. Immediately following the Sunday Angelus, Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, on his widely followed blog Stilum Curiae, revealed that in the bulletin distributed to journalists before the Pope’s prayer, there were some important remarks prepared on the crisis of Hong Kong, where the Beijing regime is definitively crushing freedom and autonomy. 

His remarks were to be read immediately after the Angelus prayer, when, just like every Sunday, the Pope speaks about the issues he considers to be the most pressing news. These were the (pre-announced) words that the Pope was supposed to read: 

“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, so that they can construct a prosperous and harmonious society together.” 

However, Tosatti reveals, shortly before the Pope appeared at the window in St. Peter’s Square, journalists were advised that the section of the prepared remarks about Hong Kong would not be spoken.

And in fact the pope did not read it. 

Thus – since it was a text under embargo – it is officially non-existent. The Vatican has not given any explanation of this singular incident.

The discourse cited above, moreover, is not at all harsh with Beijing. It would have been a significant intervention only because it would have been the first time Bergoglio said something about the drama of Hong Kong. It is well known, in fact, that despite his very marked interventionism on all sorts of political and social questions, the Argentinian Pope has been completely taciturn on the Chinese repression of Hong Kong, just as he has been on all issues concerning human rights and religious freedom in China. When he speaks of China, he always does so in an exclusively positive way, with expressions of great courtesy towards his communist tyrants. 

Tosatti, after reconstructing Sunday’s detective story, then raises all the right questions about it. He asks, “What sort of pressure has 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?” 

And he notes that “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.” 

But the problem does not concern only Chinese Christians. It concerns the entire Church. One must wonder whether the Pope is still free and if the Vatican is now subjected to Beijing, as many fear. It is an unheard of and disturbing situation. Probably the Italian media will be silent about the event, but the case could make an impression in the United States, even on a political level: at the White House. 

Antonio Socci 

Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino

First published at “Libero” on 7 July 2020 and at Antonio Socci’s website

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