Vatican pushes for diplomatic ties with Beijing
The Vatican is actively pursuing diplomatic ties with mainland China, a top Vatican foreign affairs official said.
Catholic World News reports that in separate interviews that appeared on Chinese media, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, said that Pope Benedict has an active interest in establishing ties with Beijing.
The archibishop said that the pope intended to signal his concern and respect for China by conferring a red hat on Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong.
Archbishop Lajolo said that the Vatican is confident the gesture would be interpreted positively and that relations between the two states would improve, despite the "conflicting signs" from Beijing in recent weeks.
The archibishop strongly defended Cardinal Zen's stance in favour of religious freedom in mainland China. The Chinese prelate, he said, was simply upholding human dignity, and "had not interfered in the legislative activity of the state." Religious freedom, he said, is a "fundamental right," which should not be subject to political constraints.
He said that the Vatican is seeking to fill the needs of the Church in China through better relations with the government. The archbishop said that the Chinese government "cannot ignore the desires of their people, nor the signs of the times."
Despite the contradictory signs from Beijing, Archbishop Lajolo said that the top leadership of the Chinese government is open to ties with the Vatican.
He said the Vatican is ready to make diplomatic concessions, as long as those concessions do not affect the vital mission of the Church. The archibishop said that the Vatican is willing to move its embassy from Taiwan "immediately" if diplomatic ties with Beijing are established.
In return, the archbishop said, the Chinese government must recognise the essential structure of the Church, and the need to conduct the affairs of the Chinese Church in keeping with the requirements of canon law. One essential point would be the government's recognition that the Pope has sole authority to name bishops, said Archibishop Lajolo.
Questioned about the possibility of a papal trip to China, Archbishop Lajolo said that the pope would visit only if the proper conditions can be established. He said that if an invitation Beijing arrived for 2008 - the year when China is hosting the Olympic Games - "I believe that he would not hesitate" to accept the invitation.
Since the start of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has made a series of diplomatic overtures to Beijing. By elevating Cardinal Zen, the Pope took a new step toward the revival of diplomatic accords between Rome and Beijing, which were broken off in 1951.
Vatican pushes for diplomatic ties with Beijing (Catholic World News 27/3/06)
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28 Mar 2006