Pope Francis and the swinging pendulum of history


Two events last week were particularly significant. One was the international conference on the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Council, with the presence of the bishop of Shanghai, Shen Bin, unilaterally appointed by the Chinese government and only later recognized by Pope Francis. The other was Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez’s trip to Cairo, Egypt, to speak with Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

How are these two events related?

Both, in their way, represent one of the facets of Pope Francis’ pontificate. In both cases, there is the impression that a sort of Catholic “cancel culture” is underway. That is, there is a need to reconstruct history to overcome the abuses—real or supposed—of the past and, at the same time, look to the future by pretending that everyone is okay with losing ties with the past. Bishop Shen Bin’s presence at the international conference organized by the Dicastery for Evangelization was notable precisely because the bishop was arriving in Rome at the Vatican for the first time since Pope Francis remedied his unilateral appointment by the Chinese government. Shen Bin is not just a bishop ordained in 2010, with double recognition from Rome and the Vatican. He is a bishop who is nevertheless organic to the Chinese Communist Party, presides over the Council of Chinese Catholics Bishops, a state body – and carries forward the vision of sinicization promoted by the Chinese Communist Party.

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