Relations between the Holy See and China
Diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China have been suspended since 1951. For a long time, the Holy See has hoped for the restoration of these relations, and is asking for more freedom for China’s Catholics. There are around 13 million Catholics in China, made up of members of the “official” Church, approved by the government, and the faithful of the “underground” Church.
For the first time, a senior official of the Chinese government has publicly confirmed the existence of contacts between Beijing and the Vatican. An exchange of ambassadors could take place shortly, confirmed the director of the State Office for Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen, interviewed by China Daily. But it is essential, he continued, that the Holy See break off its contacts with Taiwan and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs. In other words, the Vatican should not intervene in the appointment of bishops.
The agency Asianews considers the remarks of Ye Xiaowen to be a reaction to two recent interviews given to the Chinese media by the Vatican ‘Minister of Foreign Affairs’, Mgr. Giovanni Lajolo, on the occasion of the elevation to the cardinalate of the bishop of Hong Kong, Mgr. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. The representative of the Holy See had expressed the hope at the end of March of seeing an improvement in relations between Beijing and Rome.
On February 23, Mgr. Zen told La Repubblica that since the eighties, “many bishops appointed by the Beijing government” had asked for “recognition from the Holy See,” making it clear that “85% of the bishops of the official Church of China had obtained Vatican recognition.” Because the bishops who are not recognized are “marginalized, rejected by the clergy and the faithful.”
On March 23, the Catholic Hong Kong television channel Cable TV interviewed Cardinal Zen: “The Vatican could make concessions to the People’s Republic of China concerning the nomination of bishops, which is one of the major obstacles in the delicate relations between the Holy See and the Chinese government . It could authorize China to give an opinion without, however, giving them the last word,” he stated.
During an interview granted to the Italian television channel Rai Uno, broadcasted on March 24, the cardinal explained that “the young bishops especially will not allow themselves to be consecrated without recognition from Rome, even if the government does not allow them to say so publicly.” “There is such tight control,” he added, “that outside of China it is difficult to comprehend.” – See in The Church throughout the world article ‘China: New cardinal kept at a distance by Beijing’