China: Open to Vat­i­can but Catholics must be pa­tri­ots

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: China’s head of re­li­gious af­fairs said that Bei­jing is will­ing to have con­struc­tive di­a­logue with the Vat­i­can but stressed that Catholics should “hold up high the flag of pa­tri­o­tism” and adapt Catholi­cism to Chi­nese so­ci­ety. Wang Zuo’an, the di­rec­tor of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Re­li­gious Af­fairs, made the re­marks Tues­day at a meet­ing of China’s of­fi­cial Catholic Church, which in­cludes bish­ops, priests and lay Catholics, state me­dia re­ported.

Bei­jing in­sists that the party-con­trolled Chi­nese Catholic Pa­tri­otic As­so­ci­a­tion has the author­ity to ap­point Chi­nese bish­ops, a de­ci­sion the Holy See says be­longs to the pope alone. This dis­pute over bishop nom­i­na­tions is the most vex­ing stum­bling block pre­vent­ing the re-es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions.

China sev­ered re­la­tions with the Holy See in 1951 af­ter the Com­mu­nists took over, and the of­fi­cially athe­is­tic gov­ern­ment closed churches and im­pris­oned priests, some for decades. Wor­ship is of­fi­cially al­lowed only in state-au­tho­rized churches out­side the pope’s author­ity, al­though many of China’s es­ti­mated 12 mil­lion Catholics are thought to at­tend un­der­ground churches.

Wang said the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment hoped that the Vat­i­can can adopt a flex­i­ble and prag­matic at­ti­tude, and take con­crete ac­tions to cre­ate fa­vor­able con­di­tions for im­prov­ing re­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency. No de­tails were given of what ac­tions Bei­jing ex­pects.

The rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party has long feared that op­po­si­tion to its rule could be spread by re­li­gious and other civic groups out­side its con­trol. In May last year, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping called for re­li­gions to adapt to Chi­nese so­ci­ety, which he termed the “sini­ciza­tion of re­li­gion.” On Tues­day, Wang stressed the im­por­tance of pa­tri­o­tism within re­li­gion and “push­ing ahead with the sini­ciza­tion of Catholi­cism.”

Pope Fran­cis said ear­lier this year that Bei­jing and the Vat­i­can have re­sumed work­ing groups on the nam­ing of bish­ops is­sue and that he is “op­ti­mistic” for an agree­ment, but that it will take time. Just last week, the Vat­i­can said it was sad­dened that the or­di­na­tion of two new Chi­nese bish­ops was marred by the pres­ence of a bishop or­dained with­out the pope’s con­sent. It also said it was await­ing the out­come of this week’s meet­ing of the Chi­nese Catholic Church and hoped it would give Catholics in China con­fi­dence in the Vat­i­canChina di­a­logue. — AP


BEI­JING: In this photo taken Wed­nes­day, Dec 24, 2014, a man prays dur­ing mass on the eve of Christ­mas at the South Cathe­dral of­fi­cial Catholic church.

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