China hopes for better Vatican ties

China yesterday congratulated the newly appointed Pope Benedict XVI and said it hops Beijing's strained relations with the Catholic Church improve under his leadership.

"We hope under the leadership of the new pope, the Vatican side can create favorable conditions for improving the relationship between China and the Vatican," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.

China's officially atheist government broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and has said it will consider opening relations only if the Vatican cuts links with rival Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 amid civil war.

Qin said relations between the two sides could improve under two conditions.

"The Vatican must cut off its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan, acknowledging the People's Republic of China is the only sole legal government representing the whole of China," he said.

Secondly, the Vatican "must not intervene in China's domestic affairs, including not intervening in domestic affairs in the name of religion," Qin said.

The official body representing China's Catholics also sent a congratulatory cable to the Vatican and asked its followers to pray for him as a gesture of congratulations, Qin said.

The Vatican is the only European government that has official relations with Taiwan. China still claims the self-ruled island as its territory and refuses to have any official contact with governments that recognize its rival as a sovereign country.

China demands that Catholics worship only in churches approved by a state-controlled church group that does not recognise the pope's authority. The state-sanctioned China Patriotic Catholic Association didn't send a representative to the pope's funeral, citing the dispute over Taiwan.

Meanwhile Australian Prime Minister John Howard told reporters in Tokyo that the new Pope would reach out to all religions and provide great leadership to the Catholic Church.

"He's a very sound theologian, he's a person who will reach out, as did his great predecessor, not only to Christians around the world in all parts of the world, but also to people of other faiths," Mr Howard said.

US President Bush called the new pope "a man of great wisdom and knowledge…a man who serves the Lord."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said of the new native German pope, "this is a great honour for Germany."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan noted that, "His Holiness brings a wealth of experience to this exalted office. The United Nations and the Holy See share a strong commitment to peace, social justice, human dignity, religious freedom and mutual respect among the world's religions."

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said: "I certainly express the feelings of all Italians, and am particularly delighted, when I present Your Holiness with the warm and respectful homage of the Italian government."

South African President Thabo Mbeki noted that "Pope Benedict XVI assumes leadership at a critical time in which the world's collective wisdom and leadership including that of the religious community is most important to face up to challenges of deepening poverty and under-development afflicting many people of the world."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that, "We congratulate his Holiness and wish him every success. We hope the strong and historic relations between Palestine and the Vatican will be as strong as ever and that the Vatican's support for a just peace in the Holy Land will continue."

China hopes for better Vatican ties (Associated Press/The State.com 20/4/05)
John Howard congratulates Pope Benedict XVI (ABC Radio The World Today 20/4/05)
World leaders look hopefully to new pontificate (Catholic News Agency 20/4/05)

China wants new Pope to sever Taiwan ties (ABC News 20/4/05)
In Germany, mood is hardly one of celebration (London Independent 20/4/05)
Indian Bishops: Ratzinger's profound faith in young people's thirst for God (AsiaNews.it 20/4/05)
Russia: Metropolitan Kondrusiewicz: "With Benedict XVI, the Church has awakened to new life." (AsiaNews.it 20/4/05)
Korean Catholics, Buddhists and Protestants greet new Pope (AsiaNews.it 20/4/05)
Indonesia: Catholics hope for a Pope who combines tradition and openness to dialogue (AsiaNews.it 20/4/05)
New pope hailed as great theologian; Africa says 'don't forget us' (Catholic News Service 19/4/05)
Joy and scepticism in Germany after the election of Benedict XVI (Ecumenical News International 20/4/05)
Holy Land: bells ring out for Pope Benedict (Independent Catholic News/Fides 20/4/05)
New pope: reactions from the world's south (Missionary Service News Agency 20/4/05)
World leaders welcome choice (The Australian 21/4/05)
World Press Focus on Conservative, German Pope (Reuters 20/4/05)
World leaders welcome choice (The Australian 21/4/05)
Mixed feelings in Germany (The Australian 21/4/05)
Bush Hails New Pontiff as "Man of Great Wisdom" (Zenit 19/4/05 - temporary url)

21 Apr 2005