China Catholic Patriotic Association Vice-President Liu
Bainian's widely quoted expression of eagerness to host a papal
visit in Beijing left anxious decoders speculating on a change in
stance on the Chinese part.
Liu's own clarification yesterday ruled that out.
Exactly as we could have anticipated, Liu added to and
accentuated the same old preconditions to the country's
yet-to-be-established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The
papal visit Liu had envisaged will not happen until the Vatican
officially retracts its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and
commits to non-interference in Chinese affairs.
There is no room for compromise on the question of Taiwan. No
country should expect normal ties with the People's Republic while
maintaining "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan, which is a part of
China under international law.
But this appears to be the easier part if the Vatican truly
wants to befriend China.
Until very recently, the Roman Catholic Church has displayed
strong aspirations to get its fingers into the inner workings of
the Chinese Catholic community. It criticized the latter's
selection and ordination of bishops without Vatican involvement and
requested the suspension of such independent practice.
We see no ground for such intervention. There are no diplomatic
relations between China and the Vatican. There is no agreement
between them on bishop selection and ordination.
In spite of their opposition to external interference, Chinese
authorities have expressed a willingness to conduct "constructive
dialogue" with the Vatican on certain issues, including the
appointment of bishops. Their advance notice to the latter about
recent bishop selections and ordinations in some Catholic dioceses
was a show of sincerity. It conveyed the important message that the
government is not anti-Catholic, or anti-Vatican.
Instead, the atheist Communist Party of China has found a new
interest in the pacifist and cohesive potential of religions. Its
milestone document on "harmonious society" has a specific line
calling to "exploit the positive functions of religions in
promoting social harmony".
The Vatican might just take advantage of that.
Liu's hope to play host to the Pope is not impossible, should
the Chinese side see the kind of goodwill it has been awaiting from
(China Daily July 26, 2007)