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Hong Kong bishop says Taiwan not the issue between Vatican and Beijing

Hong Kong's outspoken Bishop Joseph Zen said on Tuesday that the stumbling block to diplomatic recognition between Beijing and the Vatican was what Beijing would allow the Holy See to do in China, not the question of Taiwan.

"The Vatican has made it clear that it is ready for a compromise, ready to renounce diplomatic relations with Taiwan," said Bishop Zen, who became the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong last year. "So, that is not going to be a problem."

He cited the right to appoint Chinese bishops as a major area of contention between Beijing and the Vatican.

He pointed out that the Vatican needed to have diplomatic ties with Beijing to help the many Catholics on the mainland, estimated to number 10 million.

"The bishops in Taiwan understand," he said.

Beijing, which accuses the Church of conducting political activity on the mainland in the guise of religion, insists on the right to appoint bishops, has set up a shadow Catholic Church called the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and forbids ties with Rome.

Beijing cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951. The rift between the two sides widened in recent years. In 2000, Rome canonised 120 Catholic martyrs, some of whom were considered to be traitors by the Chinese government. In 2001, Beijing consecrated several Chinese bishops in defiance of the Vatican.

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Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B. (

20 Feb 2003