Aboard The Papal Plane, Sep 26 (AP/UNB) — Pope Francis acknowledged Tuesday that his landmark deal with China over bishop nominations will cause suffering among the underground faithful. But he said that he takes full responsibility and that he — and not Beijing — will have the ultimate say over naming new bishops.
Francis provided the first details of the weekend agreement signed during an in-flight news conference coming home from the Baltics. The deal aims to end decades of tensions over bishop nominations that had contributed to dividing the Chinese church and hampered efforts at improving bilateral relations.
China's estimated 12 million Catholics are split between those belonging to the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is outside the pope's authority, and an underground church loyal to the pope. Underground priests and parishioners are frequently detained and harassed.
Francis — and before him Pope Benedict XVI — had tried to unite the two communities, and years of negotiations kicked into high gear over a year ago.
Francis acknowledged that both sides lost something in the talks, and said members of the underground Chinese church "will suffer" as a result of the deal, the text of which has not been released.
"It's true, they will suffer. There is always suffering in an agreement," the pope said.
But he said he had already received messages attesting to the "martyr-like faith" of Chinese Catholics and their willingness to accept whatever was decided. He urged prayers "for the suffering for those who don't understand, or who have so many years behind them of living clandestinely."
It was a reference to the underground faithful who endured decades of persecution for refusing to join the Patriotic Association and staying loyal to the Holy See. Their cause has long been championed by Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has called Francis' deal a sell-out of the church to China's Communist rulers.
Francis said the deal calls for a process of dialogue over possible bishop candidates, but that ultimately the pope decides.
"It's not that they name. It's a dialogue on possible candidates," he said. "The thing is done in dialogue. But Rome names. The pope names. This is clear."
The issue of bishop nominations had been the main stumbling block to restoring diplomatic relations that were severed nearly seven decades ago when the Chinese communists came to power. The Holy See insisted on the pope's right to name bishops to preserve the apostolic succession that dates to Jesus' original apostles. China considered the Vatican's insistence as an infringement on its sovereignty.
Because of the dispute, China over the years named some bishops without papal consent, some of whom were then excommunicated by the church. The key part of the deal calls for the Vatican to recognize the seven living illegitimate bishops and regularize their status in the church, while also arranging for two legitimate ones to step aside.
Francis said he took personal responsibility for the deal, and signed each of the decrees reconciling with the seven bishops.
The Vatican announced the deal Saturday, saying that from now on all bishops in China are in communion with Rome. The Vatican said it was provisional in nature, suggesting it could be revisited periodically.
Zen has been the main figure in criticizing the deal, but Francis noted there is plenty of historic precedence for state authorities naming bishops, including in his native Latin America.
"Let's not forget that, thank God, we overcame this, but that for 350 years it was the kings of Portugal and Spain who named bishops and the pope gave his jurisdiction," Francis said. "Let's not forget that in the case of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Maria Therese got tired of signing the nominations of bishops and gave the jurisdiction to the Vatican."
While acknowledging the suffering of some underground faithful in China, Francis pointed to what he considered a good sign that the church is beginning to unify. He noted that in the weeks after a retired Vatican ambassador accused him of covering up the sexual misconduct of an American cardinal, bishops conferences around the world wrote to him voicing their support.
The Chinese faithful wrote to him as well, he said. Both an underground bishop and a bishop of the Patriotic Church signed the same letter.
"Together, both of them. And faithful, both of them. For me this is a signal," Francis said.
United Nations, Sep 26 (AP/UNB) -President Joseph Kabila of Congo is stressing that holding elections on Dec. 23 is "irreversible" and denouncing any interference in the electoral process from foreign governments.
Kabila became Congo's leader in 2001 after the assassination of his father and by law could not run again after his mandate ended in December 2016. But he has remained in office because of delays in holding elections, which sparked deadly protests.
He told the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that "everything will be implemented to guarantee the peaceful and credible nature of these elections "
Kabila warned that the United Nations will not be "an organization for all if the intrusive interference of some governments in matters undoubtedly in the domestic policy of the states" continues. He did not name any countries.
He also called for an "effective and substantial" start to the withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo.
Germany and Saudi Arabia have agreed to patch up their strained diplomatic ties, after Berlin's top diplomat expressed regret for recent "misunderstandings" that angered the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia pulled its ambassador from Germany last year after then German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel suggested Riyadh was engaging in "political adventurism" in the Middle East.
Current Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Tuesday that "our relations have witnessed misunderstandings which stands in sharp contrast to our otherwise strong and strategic ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We sincerely regret this."
Speaking after the two met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir responded by inviting Maas to visit the kingdom "at the earliest opportunity so that we may begin a new phase of close cooperation."
Smirks and smiles, but no signs of shock: German diplomats appeared bemused by President Donald Trump's latest swipe at their country.
In a wide-ranging speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump took time to reiterate his criticism of Germany's planned undersea gas pipeline from Russia.
After the U.S. president's warning that "Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course," cameras showed German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gently shaking his head, while senior diplomats smiled.
United Nations, Sep 25 (AP/UNB) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to overthrow his government, rejecting bilateral talks after President Donald Trump denounced Iran's leaders and predicted stepped-up U.S. sanctions would get Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear program.
Addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani accused the Trump administration of violating the rules of international law and "state obligations" from the Obama administration by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with the U.S. and five other major powers.
"On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving such as this?" Rouhani asked. "It is ironic that the U.S. government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks."
Rouhani invited the U.S. to come back to negotiations within the U.N. Security Council, which endorsed the nuclear deal. There, he said, both sides can listen to each other.
"Beginning the dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions that negate the principles of ethics and international law," he said. "What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying. Just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations."
In remarks released while Rouhani was still talking, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton doubled down on the decision to withdraw from the deal, calling it "the worst diplomatic debacle in American history." He echoed Trump's strong language and used blunt words to dismiss any entreaties from Tehran.
"According to the mullahs in Tehran, we are 'the Great Satan,' lord of the underworld, master of the raging inferno," Bolton said in remarks prepared for delivery at a New York meeting convened to oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"So, I might imagine they would take me seriously when I assure them today: If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be HELL to PAY," Bolton said.
The capitalizations were included in the text of the quotes released to journalists.
In his General Assembly speech, Rouhani targeted Trump in language if not directly in name.
"The United States' understanding of international relations is authoritarian," he said. "In its estimation, might makes right."
Rouhani condemned "recklessness and disregard of some states for international values and institutions." He laid into leaders who believe they can "ride public sentiments and gain popular support through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism" and through what he called "xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition."
Trump, in his own speech, said Americans "reject the ideology of globalism" in favor of what he called "the doctrine of patriotism." He also blasted what he called Iran's "corrupt dictatorship" and said its leaders "sow chaos, death and destruction" and "spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
The Iranian president took a dig at Trump's opposition to nations working together, adding a personal twist.
"Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength. Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world." Rouhani said.
Rouhani accused the U.S. of pressuring other countries to violate the nuclear agreement and threatening to punish those who comply with the Security Council resolution endorsing it. He said Iran appreciates the European Union, Russia and China for supporting its implementation.
Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories to the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — agreed at a meeting with Iran's foreign minister Monday to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports including oil. That was sought by Tehran to counter U.S. sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harshly criticized those countries for attempting to subvert U.S. sanctions, telling an anti-Iran meeting: "This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security."
Trump's administration reinstated sanctions on Iran after pulling Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal. The administration has accused Iran of promoting international terrorism.
In remarks earlier Tuesday, Trump predicted that the pressure from renewed sanctions would force Iran back to the table to negotiate. But Rouhani noted that Iranians have endured sanctions before and cannot be "brought to the negotiating table by force."
The Iranian president said his country will remain a link between East and West, noting that it fought Iraq's ruling party before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, battled the Taliban and al-Qaida before 9/11 and was opposing the Islamic State extremist group before its attacks in Europe.
"Appreciate these historical realities about Iran," Rouhani told leaders at the end of his speech. "Quit imposing sanctions and end extremism. The world will not have a better friend than Iran, if peace is what you seek."
Putrajaya, Sep 26 (AP/UNB) — The wife of Malaysian former Prime Minister Najib Razak has arrived at the anti-graft agency for questioning over the multibillion-dollar looting of a state investment fund.
Rosmah Mansor was summoned Wednesday for a second time in three months and could face criminal charges like her husband. Najib has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, corruption, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust over the scandal involving the 1MDB state fund and will face trial next year.
Rosmah didn't speak to reporters as she entered the agency's building, escorted by police and her lawyers. She came under the spotlight after police found hundreds of luxury handbags, jewelry and cash during raids on apartments linked to the family shortly after Najib's shocking electoral defeat.
United Nations, Sept 26 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump got some laughter when he addressed world leaders on Tuesday. It wasn't intentional.
The president was highlighting U.S. gains under his watch as he opened his address to the U.N. General Assembly. He said the American economy was "booming like never before" and that his administration has accomplished more in less than two years than almost any other administration.
His boast elicited laughter from the scores of heads of state and delegates in the audience for the speech.
Trump, who has long claimed that his predecessors' weak leadership prompted other nations "to laugh" at the US. appeared flustered and responded, "I didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK."
Later, as he was leaving the U.N., he told reporters that he had meant to be funny.
"Oh it was great, well, that was meant to get some laughter, so it was great," he said.
In his speech, Trump said the U.S. is a "stronger, safer and richer country" than when he took office in January 2017. He said "we are standing up for America and for the American people, and we are also standing up for the world."
A little further into his speech, German diplomats appeared bemused by Trump's latest swipe at their country as he reiterated his criticism of Germany's planned undersea gas pipeline from Russia.
After the president's warning that "Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course," cameras showed German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gently shaking his head, while senior diplomats smiled.
Some in the audience also grumbled during Trump's remarks when he said "we reject the ideology" of globalism. When Trump criticized socialism, a member of the Swedish delegation frowned with disapproval.