China steps back on pope invitation

China's government will not stop appointing bishops but is willing to have a "dialogue" with the Vatican, according to an editorial in an official state newspaper, while a Patriotic Church spokesperson says that conditions need to be fulfilled before the pope can visit China.

The Age reports that China rejects the Vatican's demand that it stop appointing bishops without papal approval but is willing to talk, a state newspaper said on Thursday, adding to uncertainty over Beijing's next bishop.

The death in April of Beijing bishop Fu Tieshan, who did not have Rome's blessing, opened a vacancy in China's most prominent diocese and has created a test for relations cut since 1951.

Uncertainty remains whether Fu's probable successor, Father Li Shan, who was nominated by city clergy and laity earlier this month, will ask, or be allowed, to seek Vatican approval, the paper says.

An editorial in the China Daily, the country's official English-language paper, appeared to give little leeway.

"We see no ground for such intervention," the paper said.

"There are no diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican. There is no agreement between them on bishop selection and ordination."

But Chinese authorities had made a "show of sincerity" by giving advance notice to the Vatican of recent appointments of bishops, the paper said.

Beijing was willing to have a dialogue with the Vatican over how bishops were appointed, it said. These days most bishops even in China's state-approved church have won Rome's blessing.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone last week said Li was a "very good, well-suited candidate" and "we hope they seek the Holy See's approval," according to the Rome-based Zenit news agency.

"We are waiting and we are optimistic," he said.

The Chinese paper's comments came as the Catholic Patriotic Association - the government's vehicle for controlling church affairs - celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The vice-president of the Association, Liu Bainian, who often speaks on its behalf, heavily qualified earlier comments that he hoped the pope would visit Beijing.

Liu told the China Daily that a visit depended on the Pope severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan - the self-governed island that Beijing considers an illegitimate breakaway - and renouncing "interference in China's internal affairs".

China 'rejects Vatican call on bishops' (The Age, 27/7/07)
Liu Bainian goes back on his invitation to Pope, and the government talks of "changing times" (AsiaNews, 26/7/07)
Terms set for normal ties with Vatican (China Daily, 26/7/07)
Pope: Possibility Of Visit to China Is 'Complicated' (New York Sun, 26/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Beijing diocese (Catholic Hierarchy)
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (Wikipedia)
Roman Catholicism in China (Wikipedia)

Welcome to China: Patriotic Church to Pope (CathNews, 25/7/07)
Chinese Catholics name new Beijing bishop (CathNews, 19/7/07)
China bishops, leaders positive on papal letter (CathNews, 4/7/07)
Benedict's letter "different": Chinese church leader (CathNews, 3/7/07)
Benedict reaches out to China (CathNews, 2/7/07)
Benedict to write to China seeking "normal" diplomatic relations (CathNews, 22/1/07)
Monasteries pray for Pope's China letter (CathNews, 26/6/07)
No China ties unless Vatican appoints bishops (CathNews, 22/5/07)
China bishop still missing (CathNews, 17/4/07)
"Christian explosion" among Chinese intellectuals, expert finds (CathNews, 23/3/07)
No rest for Zen, Pope decides (CathNews, 22/3/07)
Bibles for Beijing Olympics (CathNews, 12/3/07)

27 Jul 2007