January 5, 2000
volume 11, no. 3

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NEWS & VIEWS         Acknowledgments
    Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The Vatican has expressed "astonishment" and "disappointment" at the news that three Chinese bishops will be ordained for the government-approved Patriotic Catholic Association without the approval of the Holy See.

    Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls observed that the unilateral move by the Patriotic Church comes at a time when "voices have been raised on several fronts" suggesting the possibility of a move toward normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Beijing government. The ordination of new bishops for the Patriotic Church, which rejects ties with the Holy See, will "create obstacles which would certainly block such a development," Navarro-Valls said.

    The ordination of bishops without the consent of the Pope is not a new development in China; it has been occurring regularly within the Patriotic Church since the government established that body in 1957. But the new ordinations are scheduled to be performed in Beijing rather than in the individual dioceses. Vatican sources see that move as a direct challenge.

    The Chinese slap at the Vatican is particularly clear since the unauthorized episcopal ordinations in China will take place on January 6-- the very day when Pope John Paul II himself will ordain 12 new bishops in St. Peter's Basilica.

    Pressed for information on the "voices" which Navarro-Valls cited as predicting moves toward diplomatic relations between Rome and Beijing, Vatican officials insisted that those voices were coming from China. The Vatican has consistently denied reports of secret negotiations with the Beijing leadership.

    On December 23, the French newspaper Figaro reported "very advanced" talks between the Vatican and the Chinese government on the prospects for diplomatic relations. But at the time, Navarro-Valls dismissed that report, saying that there was "nothing new" in Vatican relations with Beijing. Similar denials had been issued from Rome after reports that appeared in Hong Kong newspapers in October and again earlier in December, also suggesting that negotiations were underway.

    The Chinese government has never wavered from its insistence that diplomatic relations with the Holy See will be impossible until the Vatican breaks off relations with Taiwan, and promises not to intervene in the "internal affairs" of China-- which would include the appointment of bishops. The Holy See, in turn, has insisted that religious freedom would be a precondition for diplomatic ties.

    The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported on January 4 that the Vatican appeared willing to submit the nomination of bishops to the government for approval-- an arrangement which has been followed with other Communist countries. But the Vatican will not accept the continued independence of a Patriotic Church subject to the control of the Communist Party, the newspaper reported.

    Diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican were broken off in 1951, when the papal nuncio-- Archbishop Antonio Riberi-- was expelled from mainland China, and forced to seek refuge in Taiwan. Since that time, a papal nuncio has continued to serve in Taiwan-- although the Vatican has hinted that he would be transferred quickly to Beijing if a diplomatic agreement were reached.


January 5, 2000
volume 10, no. 3

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