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China's Appointment on Bishops Threatens Sino-Vatican Relations

China’s official Catholic church appointed its second Bishop without papal blessing, Wednesday, at a ceremony in eastern Anhui province at Wuhu city’s Saint Joseph’s Cathedral.
( [email protected] ) May 03, 2006 01:47 PM EDT

China’s official Catholic church appointed its second Bishop without papal blessing, Wednesday, at a ceremony in eastern Anhui province at Wuhu city’s Saint Joseph’s Cathedral.

Liu Xinhong became the second ordained Bishop appointed by Beijing, three days since the Sunday consecration of Ma Yinglin in Kunming inflamed Sino-Vatican relations.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who has openly encouraged dialogue between China and the Vatican, said the talks should end, Tuesday, until Beijing take’s responsibility for its "very disloyal and very rude" decision.

"I don’t think it's possible to have any mutual trust anymore," Zen said, in a quote by Reuters. "It’s very damaging to the relationship…I think it can’t be worse than this."

About a third or more of China’s Catholics remained loyal to the Vatican, opting to worship in "underground" churches despite repression from the Chinese Communist Party.

The state-controlled churches have about four million worshippers, according to government figures. The number of illegal unregistered, or underground, church is around 10 million, says the Vatican.

Over the years, a number of Chinese clergy sought blessings from Rome after China eased its restrictions on religions starting in the 1980s. Father Bernardo Cervella, director of Rome-based AsiaNews service, estimated about 85 percent of China’s are approved by the Vatican.

Liu Xinhong, said Cervella, was apparently not considered by the papacy since he was deemed "too close to the government." "This threatens to destroy the dialogue between China and the Vatican," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

Pope Benedict XVI had initially given strong desire to restore normal relations with China. Vatican officials also said they were willing to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and switch relations to China.

Due to the Vatican’s unprecedented concession on Taiwan, many experts speculated that Sino-Vatican relations would be reestablished.

The consecration of two Bishops, this week, without Vatican approval have brought doubt that successful normal dialogue between China and the Vatican will continue.

"Obedience to the Pope is core to Catholic dogma, but this runs entirely against that," said Joseph Kung, leader of the Cardinal Kung Foundation which often criticizes the Mainland government.

Beijing, which cut formal ties with the Vatican in 1951, told the papacy to not interfere after Vatican officials asked for China to delay Ma Yinglin’s consecration.

This is not the first time Vatican and Chinese relations cooled. In 2000, China-Vatican dialogue was placed on hold after Beijing consecrated five bishops.

It is not known how long Vatican and China talks will be delayed in light of the recent ordinations of Bishops Ma Yinglin and Liu Xinhong.