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Beijing confirms the existence of "contacts" between China and the Holy See


Beijing has publicly confirmed that contacts exist between China and the Vatican on the question of restoring diplomatic relations between the two states.

AsiaNews.it reports that Ye Xiaowen, Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said in a statement to Chinese media that "the contact between (China and the Vatican) has been continuing all along but it is hard to set a timetable."

The statement is the first time Beijing has publicly confirmed talks between Beijing and the Vatican. Last Month a top Vatican foreign affairs official said the "time is ripe" for the Vatican and Beijing to re-establish diplomatic relations.

But Ye said that the Vatican must meet two pre-conditions before China would accept formal ties between the two states. These pre-conditions require the Vatican to break ties with Taiwan and refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs.

"We can establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican very soon," Ye said, "if the two principles are accepted. But it is very hard for us to do so if the principles are violated."

The most delicate problem is interference in China's internal affairs, which for Beijing also includes the right to name Catholic bishops. Ye insisted that China wants to have its say on nominations. "We have always been appointing and consecrating our own bishops," he said, "This is what we must stick to."

But in insisting on the nomination of bishops, Ye has shown himself to be more flexible than on other occasions, stating that the problem "may be open to consultation."

Both states have been studying a compromise method, similar to that used in Vietnam, for the naming of bishops, whereby the Holy See presents various names from which the government can then choose.

However, many official Chinese bishops are not pleased with the compromise solution. In an interview with AsiaNews.it, one of China's most important official bishops who wish to remain anonymous said that, "The nomination and ordination of bishops is part of the sacramental elements of the Church and the state has not right to enter into it."

Regarding the two pro-conditions set by Beijing, China's newest Cardinal Joseph Zen said that breaking ties with Taiwan "is not a problem", but can only come about in exchange for China's guarantee of full religious freedom, including the naming of bishops.


SOURCE
Beijing confirms the existence of "contacts" between China and the Holy See (AsiaNews.it 3/4/06)

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4 Apr 2006