Pope Francis defended on Tuesday a landmark deal between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops, saying he, not the Beijing government, would have the final say on who was named.
In his first public comments on the deal signed in Beijing on Saturday, Francis told reporters on the plane returning from a trip to the Baltics that he realised that not everyone would understand the logic behind it, but that he was confident in the “great faith” of Chinese Catholics.
“It’s not (that the government) names them. It is a dialogue. But it is the pope who will appoint them. Let that be clear,” he said of the deal, which was more than 10 years in the making. The deal gives the Vatican a long-desired say in the appointment of bishops in China, though critics have labelled the deal a sellout to the Communist government.
The Vatican said failure to reach a deal could have led to a schism between Chinese Catholics that would have been difficult to heal in the future.
“I think of the endurance of the Catholics who suffered. It is true that they will suffer. There is always suffering in an accord, but they have great faith,” the pope said
In the meantime, Pope Francis, facing clergy sex abuse scandals in several countries, said that the Roman Catholic Church has “spared no effort” to tackle the problem in recent years.
But, speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane while returning from a four-day trip to the Baltics, the pope again appeared to indirectly acknowledge that the Church had hidden sexual abuse “in the past century,” saying that such cover-ups had been common in families as well.
Francis referred to a damning report last August by a U.S. grand jury on sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania over a 70-year period. He noted that the incidents of abuse diminished toward the end of the years covered in the report.
“In more recent times the number went down because the Church realized that it had to fight in a different way,” he said.
“In olden times, these things were covered up, they were even covered up in homes, when an uncle raped a niece, when a father raped his children. It was covered up because it was an enormous shame. That was the mentality in the last century,” he said.