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Vatican-China Relation Remains Uncertain despite Vatican Claims 'Time is Ripe'

Following the installation of the Bishop of Hong Kong as new cardinal, the relation between Vatican and China remains uncertain despite the Vatican claims that 'Time is Ripe'.
( [email protected] ) Mar 26, 2006 08:41 PM EST

Following the installation of the Bishop of Hong Kong as new cardinal, the relation between Vatican and China remains uncertain despite the Vatican claims that "Time is Ripe".

The Vatican's foreign minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo commented on the current situation on Saturday during an interview with the Hong Kong station I-Cable TV, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Since April 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has first announced his priority in recovering the diplomatic relation with China at his official installation. However, the dialogue has remained in deadlock as China has insisted not to associate with any party that has relationship with Taiwan. In addition, religious freedom is one of the sensitive issues that have concerned the Beijing government.

"As is known, there have already been various contacts, with ups and downs," Lajolo said. "It seems to me that the Holy See has clearly explained what it is asking for, what it is ready to concede and what it can never give up if it is to remain faithful to itself. In our opinion, the time is ripe."

According to AP, Lajolo has also confirmed that the Vatican is ready to forgo Taiwan for China as it has realized the urgency of the spiritual needs of the several million Catholics in China, compared to those of the 300,000 Catholics in Taiwan.

"For this reason the Holy See has manifested its willingness to transfer the apostolic nunciature from Taipei to Beijing just as in 1952, on account of the circumstances of the time, it transferred the nunciature from mainland China to Taiwan," said Lajolo.

Lajolo insisted that the Vatican does not intend to weaken its "bonds of friendship" with Taiwan Catholics and the entire population. The Vatican had communicated its wish to move its embassy to both governments, he added.

Another major obstacle for Vatican-China relation is the appointment of bishops. The Vatican intends to keep its tradition that the pope names his bishops, but China demands to control the appointment. The new Hong Kong cardinal Zen was confident a formula could be found to overcome the differences, according to AP.

In response to the positive expectation of the Vatican and China, Tou Chou-seng, Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican, denied the diplomatic recognition to Beijing has been reached, the Taiwanese official Central News Agency (CNA) reported on Sunday.

Tou sharply pointed out that the major roadblock is the religious freedom issue.

"Since 1999 and again in October last year, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, said that the Holy See is ready to move its embassy from Taipei to Beijing whenever China decides to grant its citizens freedom of religion and to treat the Vatican on an equal basis," Tou explained.

Another Taiwanese Cardinal Paul Suan echoed Tou’s response Sunday, saying that he saw no sign of any imminent change in relations between the Republic of China and the Vatican, according to CNA. "Respect of human rights" and "freedom of religion" are the conditions the Holy See to establish diplomatic ties with other countries.