Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Zen slams Beijing on bishop pick

CHURCH POWERS Hong Kong's Cardinal Joseph Zen has criticized China over the appointment of bishops without first consulting the Holy See


The Vatican should halt talks with China about restoring formal diplomatic ties because Beijing is ordaining bishops who aren't approved by the Roman Catholic church, a Hong Kong newspaper yesterday quoted a cardinal as saying.

The comments by Hong Kong's Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君) came after China's state-sanctioned Catholic Church appointed a new bishop on Sunday and planned to ordain another today.

The Vatican has requested that both sides be allowed to assess the candidates' qualifications before they are ordained.

Zen said the Sino-Vatican dialogue "cannot continue because people will think we are prepared to surrender," the paper reported.

"We cannot budge. When you brutally place such a fait accompli, how can you call this dialogue? This totally runs against the spirit of dialogue," he said.

Zen has served as an intermediary between Chinese and Vatican officials. His comments were uncharacteristic because he has usually been a supporter of pressing ahead with Sino-Vatican talks. China's official church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said it was planning to ordain another bishop today in Anhui Province.

The Church's vice chairman, Liu Bainian (劉柏年), said he believed the Vatican would not oppose Liu Xinhong's (劉新洪) ordainment but stressed Beijing had no diplomatic channels to communicate with the Holy See.

"We believe the pope will not disagree. We have not considered whether this ordainment will bring negative consequences on Sino-Vatican relations," Liu told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK.

Zen's information officer said the cardinal didn't plan to make further comments to the media in the next two weeks. The English-language South China Morning Post reported on its front page that Zen said the Vatican would issue a "very strong reaction to underline the seriousness of the matter" later yesterday or today.

One of the sticking points in talks to restore Sino-Vatican relations has been who has the authority to appoint bishops. The Vatican has said that Beijing could have some input but the pope should have the final say.

When the new bishop, Ma Yinglin (馬英林), was ordained last Sunday in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China's foreign ministry defended the official church's right to appoint bishops without Vatican input. A ministry statement said the recent ordination of bishops "have been unanimously well received by church members and priests."

Zen was quoted as saying that the recent ordinations were part of a plan by Liu to "sabotage" the warming Sino-Vatican ties.

"I think it's Liu Bainian's last struggle to show that he can win once or twice. But this last-ditch struggle will definitely damage the dialogue," Zen reportedly said.

China cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the Communist Party took power in Beijing. Worship is only allowed in state-controlled churches, although millions of Chinese Catholics belong to the so-called "underground church" loyal to Rome.

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