China to hold Catholic con­fer­ence af­ter 6-year hia­tus

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

China said yes­ter­day it will restart a con­fer­ence of lo­cal Catholics, end­ing a years-long hia­tus, as it ex­pressed good­will to­wards the Vat­i­can af­ter six decades of es­trange­ment. The coun­try’s roughly 12 mil­lion Catholics are di­vided be­tween a gov­ern­ment-run as­so­ci­a­tion, whose clergy are cho­sen by the Com­mu­nist Party, and an un­of­fi­cial church which swears al­le­giance to the Vat­i­can.

Al­though Beijing and the Vat­i­can have im­proved re­la­tions in re­cent years as China’s Catholic pop­u­la­tion has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the au­thor­ity to or­dain bish­ops. The ninth Chi­nese Catholic rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­fer­ence will be­gin Tues­day and run through Thurs­day in Beijing af­ter a sixyear hia­tus, the for­eign ministry said dur­ing a press brief­ing.

The Vat­i­can had con­demned pre­vi­ous con­fer­ences be­cause mem­bers of the un­of­fi­cial church loyal to Rome had re­port­edly been forced to par­tic­i­pate. But this time the Holy See has given tacit ap­proval for mem­bers of the so-called “un­der­ground” church, in­clud­ing bish­ops, to at­tend the con­clave, ac­cord­ing to Catholic web sites fa­mil­iar with re­li­gious af­fairs in China.

“We be­lieve this con­fer­ence can push the in­te­gra­tion of Catholic ac­tiv­i­ties into Chi­nese so­ci­ety and cul­ture a step for­ward,” spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing told re­porters, adding that the coun­try had “good­will” to­wards the Vat­i­can. “We want to move for­ward down the same road with the Vat­i­can and pro­mote bi­lat­eral, con­struc­tive di­a­logue and re­la­tions,” she said.

China and the Vat­i­can sev­ered diplo­matic re­la­tions in 1951. Since be­com­ing head of the Holy See in 2013 Pope Fran­cis has tried to im­prove re­la­tions with Beijing in the hope of re­con­nect­ing with Catholics in China. Chi­nese and Vat­i­can of­fi­cials have met at least four times since Jan­uary to try and re­solve the del­i­cate is­sue of the ap­point­ment of bish­ops-the heart of the dis­pute. —AFP

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