Thu, Apr 05, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Vatican has doubts about a deal with China: source

DOUBTS:Even if an agreement is reached in talks, the Holy See would be concerned about Beijing honoring it and the Chinese government’s attitude toward religions

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Despite rumors that China and the Vatican are close to ironing out their differences over the appointment of Catholic bishops, the Holy See still has doubts about whether Beijing would actually carry out the terms of an agreement, a government official said.

Beijing and the Holy See have held 30 rounds of talks since dialogue began in 1987, although they were suspended during Pope Benedict XVI’s term from 2005 to 2013, an official with knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity.

“What really concerns the Vatican are the vandalism of crosses, [underground] bishops going missing and the delineation of dioceses in China, which is home to 12 million Catholics,” the official said.

Under canon law, it is a matter of course for the pope to appoint bishops and draw up dioceses, the official said, but added that Beijing insists the matters should be handled by the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs.

The issues between China and the Vatican are often oversimplified by outside observers, while they actually hinge on many different factors and their leaders’ evaluation of their countries’ internal situations, the official said.

“Even if something does come out of the bilateral talks, whether Beijing would actually honor the terms of an agreement, its considerations for [the need] to maintain social stability and its overall attitude toward religions would still be concerns [for the Holy See,]” the official said.

The official’s comments came after the Chinese agency yesterday issued a white paper titled China’s Policy and Practice of Safeguarding Religious Freedoms, which said that China’s “religious groups and religious affairs are not to be dictated by foreign powers.”

The white paper was published amid rumors that Beijing and the Vatican are close to reaching an agreement on who appoints bishops, a major roadblock that if removed is expected to cost Taiwan its only European diplomatic ally.

However, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke on Thursday last week denied the rumors, saying: “There is no imminent signature of an agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China.”

The information that Taipei has gathered by itself or from its allies accurately reflects the latest developments in the China-Vatican talks, the official said.

“Whether it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or our embassy in the Holy See, the government’s communication with the Vatican is smooth at all levels,” the official added.

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