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HK Cardinal Rejects China's Instruction on Bishops

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of China, on Thursday rejected suggestions from a Chinese religious official to convince the Vatican to accept Beijing's ordainment of bishops wit
( [email protected] ) May 11, 2006 11:10 AM EDT

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of China, on Thursday rejected suggestions from a Chinese religious official to convince the Vatican to accept Beijing’s ordainment of bishops without papal blessings.

Vatican-Chinese relations remained strained despite promises made by the government-sanctioned China Patriotic Catholic Association that China will seek to improve relations with the Holy See, Tuesday, following the consecration of two bishops without Vatican permission.

"If Beijing's position is to take over the authority for ordaining bishops ... this would do no good for the country and would not be accepted by the majority of the clergy and faithful," Zen said in response to a request by a Chinese religious official in Hong Kong to accept the consecrations.

China and the Vatican has yet to have normalize relations following the Communist Party’s victory in 1949, and the subsequent expulsion of Vatican diplomats by 1951.

Vatican and Chinese officials over the years have been making overtures aimed at reestablishing formal ties. Until recently, prospective Chinese priests and bishops often sought papal approval before taking their posts at state-control churches.

The Shanghai-born Cardinal Zen called for more religious freedom in China.

"I love my country as much as my Church, and I do hope they achieve a 'win-win' agreement, so that genuine religious freedom will be secured," he said.

Catholics from house churches have often reported cases of government harassment and persecution, especially in Hebei province, often known as the center for “underground” Catholic house church activity.

China has about 120 bishops, 74 of which are from government controlled churches, according to a 2004 study done in 2004 by the Holy Spirit Study in Hong Kong. Though Catholics in China are often divided between state-back churches and “underground” house churches, which are still to the Pope, Chinese Catholics have been known to often move between both bodies.