Vatican Should Abandon Talks With Beijing, Zen Says
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HONG KONG – The Vatican should suspend talks with Beijing on restoring diplomatic ties because China’s official Roman Catholic church is ready to ordain another bishop not approved by the Holy See, Hong Kong’s cardinal said yesterday.
On Sunday, China’s state-sanctioned church ordained Ma Yinglin as a bishop in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Cardinal Joseph Zen told the Associated Press the Vatican was still considering Bishop Ma’s qualifications and had asked for more time to approve it, but China refused.
Beijing was to appoint another new bishop, Liu Xinhong, in eastern Anhui province today, despite the fact the Vatican has deemed him not qualified for the post, Cardinal Zen said.
One of the sticking points in talks to restore Sino-Vatican relations has been who has the authority to appoint bishops. The Vatican has said that Beijing could have some input but the pope should have the final say.
Beijing severed ties with the Vatican in 1951 shortly after the Communists took power. Worship is only allowed in churches run by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
However, millions of Chinese Catholics belong to “underground churches” loyal to the Holy See. Those who meet in such churches are frequently harassed, fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps.
The Vatican and China have been discussing restoring relations, and the Vatican-appointed Cardinal Zen has served as an intermediary and an enthusiastic supporter of the talks.
But Cardinal Zen told the AP yesterday he believed the discussions should be halted because of disagreement over the bishop issue.
“There must be some explanation from the government before going on with the talks,” he said.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post published yesterday, he said the Sino-Vatican dialogue “cannot continue because people will think we are prepared to surrender. We cannot budge. When you brutally place such a fait accompli, how can you call this dialogue?”
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement yesterday defending the official church’s right to ordain bishops without Vatican input and calling the Holy See’s criticism of such appointments “groundless.”
The Chinese church’s vice chairman, Liu Bainian, said he believed the Vatican would not oppose Liu Xinhong’s ordainment today but stressed Beijing had no diplomatic channels to communicate with the Holy See.
“We believe the pope will not disagree. We have not considered whether this ordainment will bring negative consequences on Sino-Vatican relations,” Liu Bainian told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK.
Cardinal Zen said he doubts the Chinese government is fully behind the push to defy the Vatican and appoint new bishops. He said it was a bid by Liu Bainian and the official church to exercise power they will lose when Sino-Vatican ties are restored.
“I doubt that it comes from the top of the leadership,” Cardinal Zen said. “I don’t think they would do such insensitive things.”