Continuation of Dialogue Between Holy See and Beijing

Source: FSSPX News


A Chinese delegation was received with the utmost discretion at the Vatican, on March 18, Le Figaro announced in its March 20 edition in an article about the situation in Tibet. The meeting, confirmed by I.MEDIA news agency in Rome, took place while China has been engaged in violent repression in Tibet since March 10, to put an end to the popular uprising for autonomy. The visit of Chinese diplomats to the Vatican had been scheduled long before, and followed a visit of a delegation from the Holy See to Beijing, last November, under the leadership of the under-secretary for relations with States, Bishop Pietro Parolin. On March 18 a secret meeting occurred after a meeting of experts from the Holy See and Chinese prelates on the theme: “the life of the Church in China”, at the Vatican from March 10 to 12.

The day after the confidential visit, Benedict XVI spoke about the situation in Tibet, and called for dialogue and tolerance, after having kept silence on the subject, something which did not escape notice by the Italian press. This latter judged that the Holy See would rather not cross China so as not to make the situation of the Catholic Church in the country any worse. “The Vatican is negotiating with Beijing for the establishment of diplomatic relations with China,” explained La Repubblica. Hence, “it hesitates to take a stand on Tibet which could jeopardize this historic objective.”

“There is a time to keep silent, and there is a time to speak,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Secretary of State of the Holy See, told the journalists. Questioned in Rome, during the afternoon of March 18, the dean of the College of Cardinals nevertheless stated: “the rights of peoples cannot be trampled upon, and the rights of men must not be denied.” We are all close to the Tibetan and to the Chinese peoples, and we call for a return of concord in the country.” That same day, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao declared he had “proofs” that the riots in Lhasa had been “fomented and organized by the clique of the Dalai-lama” to “sabotage the Olympic Games” of next August. The Chinese authorities are again in control in the Tibetan capital where foreign journalists are no longer allowed to visit.

During the general audience on Holy Wednesday, March 19, after the secret visit of the Chinese delegation to the Vatican, Benedict XVI spoke thus: “I follow with deep unrest the news that in these days is coming from Tibet. My fatherly heart feels sadness and sorrow at the suffering of so many people. The mystery of the passion and death of Jesus, that we live again in this Holy Week, helps us to be particularly sensitive to their situation. With violence, problems are not solved, only aggravated. I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer, asking God all-powerful, source of light, to enlighten the minds of all and give to each one the courage to choose the path of dialogue and tolerance.”

The spokesman of the Chinese minister for Foreign Affairs, Quin Gang, reacted immediately on March 20, saying: “There can be no tolerance for criminals.” “They must be punished according to the law.”

The Holy See did not hesitate to entrust the redaction of the meditations for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, March 21 to Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong-Kong who is little liked by authorities in Beijing. In his meditation, the cardinal seized the opportunity to mention very clearly the situation of Catholics in China: persecution, lack of religious liberty, and divisions in the episcopate between the official and the underground Church.

On March 20, the Cardinal had stated that he did not fear negative reactions from Beijing. He specified that the terms of “persecution” and “Church of silence” used in his meditations “were words uttered in an act of prayer, and not in an act of accusation or protest.”

On Easter Sunday, March 23, Benedict XVI spoke from the entrance of the Vatican basilica -- and not from the central loggia of the basilica, because of a downpour: “On this morning of the Resurrection, how can we not think in particular of “certain African regions, such as Dafur and Somalia, the tormented Middle East, especially the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon, and finally Tibet, all of whom I encourage to seek solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good! Let us invoke the fullness of his Paschal gifts, through the intercession of Mary who, after sharing the sufferings of the passion and crucifixion of her innocent Son, also experienced the inexpressible joy of his resurrection.” (Sources: Apic/IMedia/Le Figaro/La Repubblica/VIS)