Holy See sends envoys to Beijing for secret talks
The plight of seven detained bishops of China's underground Roman Church has prompted the Vatican to resume secret talks with Beijing, Hong Kong's Cardinal Joseph Zen has revealed.
The Sunday Times reports that the men, most of them frail and elderly, are political hostages in a dispute half a century old over the Pope's right to appoint bishops in China and the Vatican's recognition of Taiwan.
The talks were disclosed by Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has watched with alarm as recent moves to reconcile the Vatican with China have turned into a strident confrontation.
The breach came when Chinese officials ordered the appointment of three bishops not approved by Rome, wrecking months of patient diplomacy.
Cardinal Zen, who was elevated to the dignity of a Cardinal in March, said in an interview last week that envoys from Rome were in Beijing for closed-door talks, despite the mutual public recriminations, to try to prevent things getting worse for priests and bishops loyal to the Pope.
There is growing concern for the welfare of one of them, 89-year-old Bishop Lin Xili, of the city of Wenzhou, which has a strong Christian community.
Reports reaching exiled Chinese Catholics say he is under guard in hospital at an undisclosed location, can only take liquid and is partly paralysed.
Cardinal Zen said two bishops appointed to the rural Christian stronghold of Baoding, in central Hebei province, had vanished more than six years ago. "They were taken away and now we don't even know where they are," he said. "One of them was seen in a hospital but then he disappeared."
The two bishops, Su Zhimin and An Shuxin, were on a list of seven detained bishops presented in testimony to the US Congress by the Cardinal Kung Foundation, an exile group that campaigns for religious freedom in China.
Cardinal Zen said the persecution of Catholics in China had moved the Vatican to try to reach an accord that would relieve the suffering of believers.
Vatican fights to save bishops held by China (The Sunday Times 18/6/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
I hope that the new Pope can one day come to China received by all as father and pastor (30 Days, April 2005)
Encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis (Pius XII)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews 5/5/06)
19 Jun 2006