Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a “warm welcome” to two Chinese Catholic bishops attending a synod for the first time following a landmark deal between China and the Vatican.
“Today, for the first time, we have also with us two bishops from mainland China,” the pontiff said in a speech to kick off the month-long advisory body meeting on the role of young people in the 1.2 billion-member church.
“We offer them our warm welcome: the communion of the entire episcopate with the successor of Peter is yet more visible thanks to their presence,” he said.
On September 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 attending 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.
Francis said he hoped the synod would help “broaden our horizons, expand our hearts and transform those frames of mind that today paralyse, separate and alienate us from young people, leaving them exposed to stormy seas”.
The meeting of more than 300 church officials, outside experts and youth delegates is taking place in the shadow of an existential crisis in the Church over cases of widespread sexual abuse of minors by clergy and lay officials in a number of countries.