Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Vatican-China ties remain frosty, envoy says

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Normalization of Vatican-China relations has a long way to go, with the degree of unofficial contact still far from bringing the sides to the negotiating table, Taiwan's envoy to the Holy See said yesterday.

Ambassador to the Holy See Tou Chou-seng (杜筑生) said in Taipei yesterday that he had been assured by the Holy See's foreign minister that the Vatican and China had not progressed to negotiating on building diplomatic ties.

Tou is in Taiwan to deliver his annual report to the foreign ministry. He will return to the Vatican on Saturday.

During a press briefing yesterday, Tou said China's recent appointment of three Catholic bishops without the Pope's approval had seriously undermined the relations between the Holy See and China, which had appeared to be improving in recent years.

On Saturday, Beijing elevated Vincent Zhan (詹思祿) in Fujian Province. Earlier, Ma Yinglin (馬英林) in Yunnan Province and Liu Xinhong (劉新紅) in Anhui Province had been elevated against the wishes of the Vatican.

The unilateral appointment of the three is unacceptable to the pope because of their political backgrounds and records of persecution against underground Catholics, Tou said.

"The Holy See sees its authority to appoint the bishops as an important right which can never be compromised," Tou said.

There has been much speculation that Pope Benedict XVI would normalize relations with China. Unofficial contact between the Holy See and Beijing had grown more frequent and Vatican officials were often reported as saying that the Holy See was ready to move its envoy from Taipei to Beijing.

Tou yesterday said that as long as Beijing refused to ease controls on Chinese Catholics through its Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and relinquish the self-appointed authority to appoint bishops, there would be no hope of normalizing ties.

Even if the Vatican did decide to switch ties, Tou said it would not make the announcement suddenly but would rather inform Taipei in advance so that Taiwanese Catholics could be adequately represented.

Commenting on remarks by Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), who has been quoted extensively as a facilitator of communication with Beijing, Tou yesterday said that a number of Zen's comments represented only his own opinions and were not representative of the Vatican's stance.

One example demonstrating that Zen was an outsider in Vatican-Beijing relations was when Zen said the Vatican would "suspend negotiations" with Beijing over improving bilateral ties.

Tou said he had been personally assured by the Vatican's foreign minister that the Holy See and China had yet to begin negotiations.

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