China is willing to improve relations with the Vatican on the condition of two basic principles, said a Chinese religious official Friday.
"The first is that the Vatican must sever its 'diplomatic ties' with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government that represents the whole China," said Guo Wei, a spokesperson for the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA).
The second is, she said, that the Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs, including running interference in the name of religious affairs.
Although China and the Vatican still have not established diplomatic relations, the Chinese government has the sincerity to promote the normalization of their ties and has made active efforts to this end, said Guo when asked to comment on the recent ordainment of an auxiliary bishop in the Shanghai diocese.
Xing Wenzhi, a 42-year-old Chinese priest, was made auxiliary bishop Tuesday in a ceremony attended by more than 80 priests from home and abroad.
Some Western media reported earlier that Xing was jointly recognized by China and the Vatican in the nomination as a new bishop, which was denied by Chinese religious officials and religious leaders.
"There wasn't any link between Xing's nomination and the relations between China and the Vatican since Xing was totally a bishop elected by the masses," said Liu Bainian, vice president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association.
Before the ordainment ceremony, a total of 127 representatives of the priests, nuns and followers based in Shanghai had participated in an election for the auxiliary bishop on May 17, which was performed strictly according to related rules stipulated by the Chinese Catholic Bishops College.
Xing, who has worked as a priest in Shanghai for around 15 years, won the election after bagging more than 80 percent of all the ballots and the college later determined that the election was legal and valid.
"Xing is an auxiliary elected by the masses, and as the Bible says, the sound of the masses is the sound of the God," said Liu.
According to Liu, Xing's job is to assist the ruling bishop of the Shanghai diocese in carrying out the work of the diocese.
"The practices that were applied in Xing's case will continue to be applicable in the selections of further Chinese bishops in the future," he said.
According to China's Regulations on Religious Affairs, the Chinese Catholic Association has already filed Xing's materials to SARA for records.
Statistics from SARA show that China has elected and ordained more than 150 bishops since 1958.
Guo said in the future, China will continue its bishop election and ordainment according to the needs of religious work and related laws.
"The work will be carried out in an orderly and planned way," she said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 2, 2005)