Catholic priest Liu Yong Wang performs holy communion in a make-shift chapel in the village of Bai Gu Tun, located on the outskirts of the city of Tianjin, around 70 km (43 miles) south-east of Beijing on July 17, 2012. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Gray

China calls on Vatican to be flexible, pragmatic on ties

BEIJING (Reuters) The Vatican should take steps to improve relations with China, the Chinese head of religious affairs said on Tuesday, a week after the Roman Catholic Church said it was hoping for "positive signals" from Beijing.

Pope Francis is trying to heal a decades-old rift with China where Catholics are divided between those loyal to him and those who are members of a government-controlled official church.

One of the obstacles to improving relations is the question of who should be able to appoint senior clergy.

China says bishops must be named by the local Chinese Catholic community and refuses to accept the authority of the pope, whom it sees as the head of a foreign state that has no right to meddle in Beijing's affairs.

Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, was quoted by state news agency Xinhua on Tuesday as saying China "hopes the Vatican takes an even more flexible and pragmatic attitude, and takes actual steps to create beneficial conditions for improving relations."

China wants constructive talks to narrow differences, increase consensus and promote improved relations, he told a meeting of Chinese Catholics.

"The Chinese government's position on improving Sino-Vatican ties has always been clear and consistent," Wang said.

The Vatican said last week it was "certain that all Catholics in China are waiting with trepidation for positive signals that would help them have trust in dialogue between civil authorities and the Holy See and hope for a future of unity and harmony."

The two sides have been at loggerheads since the expulsion of foreign missionaries from China after the Communists took power in 1949, and the Vatican's continued maintenance of official ties with self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own.

Prospects for a deal were set back this month after Lei Shiyin, a government-backed bishop excommunicated by the Vatican, participated in the ordination of new bishops.


  1. Pope Francis had already agreed that the government would choose candidates to become bishop from which he could select one. He already agreed to recognize as valid 8 bishops who had been automatically excommunicated when they were ordained without the pope’s approval. So this is a real slap in the face. But Hong Kong Cardinal Zen had warned the pope: “We must face the fact that the communist government is a true dictatorship! In dictatorship regime there is no compromise, there is only total submission, slavery and humiliation … Who doesn’t know that today Chinese communists are ever more arrogant abroad and oppressive at home?”

  2. The Chinese make one valid point: the Pope is head of state for the Vatican and his authority is validly questioned by China.

  3. Totalitarian regimes require a total lock on power.
    Any organization with any sizeable membership is a potential threat affecting the totality of the power of the regime.
    Religion is one of the organizations that poses the greatest threat.
    This is all about power – the RCC wants to expand it to the detriment of Bejing’s power.
    The RCC has killed millions to obtain and maintain a total and complete lock on it’s own power.
    The RCC was/is as power hungry as any totalitarian regime.
    Let the Chinese religious work-out their own relationships as they see fit.

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