Over 300 Chinese Catholics attended the memorial service for Pope John Paul II on Monday, April 4, at Beijing’s Southern Cathedral, one of China’s state approved sanctioned church, with hopes of continually trying to establish a good relationship between Beijing and the Vatican.
The Associated Press (AP) quoted Rev. Ma Yinglin, general secretary of the China Patriotic Catholic Association and the director of this service, saying, "We hope the new pope can pick up the late pope's will to promote China-Vatican relations and realize a China visit,"
Pope John Paul II deeply wanted to establish this relationship, sources say, and it was his greatest desire to visit China and form ties with Chinese leaders, but, because Taiwan is recognized by the Vatican, cooperation between the Vatican and Beijing is complicated.
According to Reuters, upon awaiting for a newly assigned pope, Beijing is willing to guarantee religious freedom, but first the connection between the Vatican and Taiwan must be severed before any negotiations can be made.
According to Xinhuanet, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Liu Jianchao stated, "We express our condolences over the death of Pope John Paul II," and "We are willing to improve the relations with Vatican on the basis of the two principles."
These two principles entails the break of diplomatic relations with Taiwan and an agreement that the Vatican will not intervene in China’s internal state of affairs, which includes causing a disturbance under religious pretexts.
Despite restrictions placed on Chinese official churches, and even, Chinese underground churches, sources say that the number of Chinese Catholics are steadily increasing.
Father Joseph Lin, a theologian at a Beijing seminary, told the International Herald Tribune (IHT) that he recollected meeting the pope when he visited the Vatican in 1998 and that he loved China. In another affectionate note, Father Song Shang’en, in his dedication eulogy to the pope, said Monday, “he never hurt Chinese unity and independence, but the Vatican’s recognition of Taiwan makes it impossible to improve relations between China and the Vatican.”
In retrospect, Father Lin recalled the pope wanted to free the underground churches who congregated in secret.