Mon, Sep 24, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Some Catholics in Taiwan and Hong Kong upbeat on Vatican-Beijing deal

AFP, HONG KONG

A worshiper holds his son as he takes communion at the Mother of Fatima Church in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Daniel Shih, AFP

Worshipers at Masses in Hong Kong and Taiwan yesterday were largely upbeat about a new deal between China and the Vatican, despite fears Beijing is trying to increase control over the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), the outspoken former bishop of Hong Kong, accused Vatican officials of “selling out” ahead of Saturday’s agreement and in a blog post shortly after the announcement he raised concern over its impact.

“What will the government say to Catholics in China? ‘Obey us, the Holy See is already in agreement with us?’” the cardinal wrote.

Comments on social media accused the Vatican of turning a blind eye to a “silent cultural revolution” in China, where churches have been destroyed in recent months and there has been a clampdown on Bible sales.

However, churchgoers in Hong Kong gave the deal a cautious welcome.

A parishioner who gave her name as Teresa at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong said: “More contact is positive,” adding that she was not worried warming ties between Beijing and the Vatican would lead to interference in the territory’s Catholic churches.

Another who gave her name as Nikki said: “Any cooperation between the two sides has to be a good thing, as long as it’s equal cooperation.”

In Taiwan, some worshipers worried the new deal meant the nation would lose its only official ally in Europe.

Online comments on the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) Facebook page accused the Vatican of “dealing with the devil,” but churchgoers remained confident.

“I think the pope’s consideration in signing the agreement is to promote religious freedom rather than establishing diplomatic relations with China, so there is no need to politicize him,” said parishioner Yuan Shi-min at Our Lady of Fatima in Taipei.

China’s 12 million Catholics are divided between a state-run association whose clergy are chosen by the government and an unofficial church that swears allegiance to the pope.

The agreement struck on Saturday was aimed at resolving a decades-old dispute over who gets to name Catholic bishops in China, and could lead to a rapprochement for the first time since diplomatic ties were severed in 1951.

Shortly after the deal was announced, Pope Francis recognized seven clergy appointed by Beijing.

China’s state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association yesterday reaffirmed its loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, while welcoming the deal.

The Catholic Church in China said it would “persevere to walk a path suited to a socialist society, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”

It “deeply loved the motherland” and “sincerely endorsed” the agreement, hoping relations between China and the Vatican would improve further, it added in comments on its Web site.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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