DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     May 14, 1998     vol. 9, no. 94

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II is hoping to set up direct talks between the Holy See and the government of China, with his ultimate goal being the normalization of church-state relations and the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations.

          In an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, expressed regret that the Chinese government had not allowed bishops to travel to Rome for the special Synod of Bishops for Asia. "We are touching a problem of religious liberty," he said.

          However, the archbishop pointed out that because there are no direct relations between China and the Holy See, Vatican officials are at a loss to explain the logic of the Chinese refusal.

          In a wide-ranging interview, Archbishop Tauran was also questioned about the results of Pope John Paul's January trip to Cuba. "The Pope has opened doors," he said. While it may be too optimistic to think of "a radical change in just three months," he pointed to positive developments since the trip, and said "the time has come" for a new relationship between the Catholic Church and the Castro government. He also repeated the Vatican opposition to the US-led embargo on Cuba, saying "it is still difficult to justify such an embargo on moral ground."

          As the conversation turned to the Middle East, the archbishop said that the Vatican felt frustration at the stalled peace talks, and worried about the problems of the Palestinian people-- whose frustrations, he said, made them subject to the temptations of extremism. He warned that if the peace process is blocked today, it will be difficult to persuade moderate Arab leaders to back any peace initiatives in the future.

          The Holy Father cannot travel to the Holy Land as long as the current conditions exist, the archbishop said. He insisted on the points that have been emphasized by the Vatican for years: the need for a just and stable peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, and the need for international safeguards on full access to Jerusalem.

          Archbishop Tauran said that Vatican diplomats are especially concerned today about developments in Africa: "the inter-ethnic warfare, the lack of authority, the corruption of leadership, the poverty and the inefficient effort to combat it"-- all of which, he said, "are pushing entire peoples toward the edge of despair."

          The chief Vatican diplomat accentuated the role of the United States as a world leader. "It's a bit like a family," he said; "The biggest, the strongest, has the duty to help the weakest member of the family."

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

May 14, 1998       volume 9, no. 94


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