Mon, Oct 01, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik On Taiwan: The Vatican’s ‘provisional accord’ with Beijing

And how did China’s “Patriotic Catholics” respond? They came down squarely on Beijing’s side. On Sept. 23, the NARA website posted a statement from “a number” of Patriotic Catholic spokespersons which reasserted that the PCA “adheres to the principle of the independent and self-governing church, to the direction of Sinicization, and to the path of adapting to the socialist society and, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, makes unremitting efforts together with the people of all nationalities in the country to realize ‘China Dream’ of the rejuvenation of the Great Chinese Race.” To this end, the PCA is willing to “carry out friendly exchanges with other Catholic churches on the basis of independence, mutual respect, equality and friendship.” No mention of unity with the Vatican, and no sign of “concrete and visible gestures” of gratitude for Papal indulgence.

Somehow, it seems that the Vatican may have been negotiating with the wrong bureaucracy on the Appointment of Bishops. Indeed, there was no indication that the Holy See would be able to name any future bishops at all, or if they will be restricted to mere approval of Party-appointed bishops. Very few details were forthcoming.

The most curious aspect of the “Date in History” was how little notice L’Osservatore gave to the underwhelming note deep in the Chinese foreign ministry website (in Chinese only) that the “provisional agreement” covered “the appointment of bishops” and a vague consensus that “China and Vatican will continue to maintain channels of communication and promote the process of improving relations between the two sides.” While a few laudatory plaudits for the agreement (quoting prominent Italians and a few patriotic Chinese “bishops”) were posted on the Global Times English-language website, there was nothing in the Chinese-language media. The Chinese-language website of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a perfunctory two sentences that Vice Minister Wang Chao (王超) and Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, had met and signed a “provisional” something.

The Bottom Line for Taipei? It seems that “Republic of China” ties with the Holy See are safe for the short term. Having given up any demands that Beijing recognize the underground bishops in communion with the Holy See, the Vatican’s diplomatic ties with the ROC are Pope Francis’s last bargaining chip unless the Pope is prepared to excommunicate the state bishops a second time. So, this is “only the beginning” stage of the Vatican’s rapprochement with Beijing. Judging from the intense pressure from virtually the entire Church in Taiwan as well as the vociferous opposition of Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), and considering the near unanimous negativity from the lay Catholic media worldwide, Pope Francis cannot move forward with Beijing unless and until he sees significant new freedoms for China’s remaining loyal Catholic clergy and laity and an end to the persecutions great and small.

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