Saturday, July 28, 2007

No Pope-appointed bishops: China

China's "official church" has rejected the Pope's demand that Beijing should stop appointing bishops without approval from the Vatican.

The Pope also said he is willing to sort out the differences between the Vatican and the Chinese government over restoration of diplomatic ties that were severed way back in 1949.

At the heart of the controversy are two issues: the Chinese refusal to accept the Pope as a power higher than the local government over the affairs of the church; and the fact that the Vatican continues to regard Taiwan as a sovereign state.

China regards Taiwan as part of its own territory and does not have relations with any third country that has diplomatic ties with Taipei.

The official church, which has been appointing bishops to fill vacancies without reference to the Vatican, has made it clear that it will not give up its independence in the matter of appointing bishops.

This has caused heartburn for both the Vatican and Beijing.

The Vatican appoints bishops all over the world without interference from any government.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has said that the Vatican must sever "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and stop interfering in China's internal affairs if it wants to normalise ties with Beijing.

The association is known to express the thoughts of the Chinese foreign ministry on the issue of papal authority. The Vatican is the only government in Europe to recognise Taiwan, the China Daily quoted Liu Bainian, vice-president of the association as saying.

The association said it's waiting for the day when the Pope will celebrate Mass for the Chinese after forsaking its relationship with Taiwan.

Liu came up with an interesting explanation of the relationship between the Vatican and the official church in China, which controls more than half of China's churches while the rest are regarded as "underground churches".

He said Chinese Catholic society is independent of the Vatican only in politics and economic policies. When it comes to religious belief, Chinese Catholicism is no different from Catholicism anywhere in the world.

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