China religious official says he cannot confirm when China will finish rebuilding its relation with the Vatican, despite earlier reports that the two sides would rebuild diplomatic relations by the 2008 Olympics.
Qi Xiaofei, the deputy head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, made the remarks, Wed., at the World Buddhist Forum, which was the first time for China to hold an international religious meeting since the Communist Party’s rise to power in 1949.
The deputy also said that would need to "sever" its current ties with Taiwan – which Beijing considers a rogue province – and officially recognize the mainland as the sole legitimate government of China.
China has not been in contact with the Vatican since 1951, allowing Chinese Catholics to only worship at state-sanctioned churches. The Vatican subsequently established relations with Taiwan, which became the base for the fleeing Nationalist government.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, an outspoken advocate for renewed Sino-Vatican diplomacy, said that China would have to dissolve the state-controlled Catholic church for relations to be possible, early April.
At around the same time, Ye Xiaowen, director of the cabinet’s State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said that the Vatican would have to break ties with Taiwan before talks can begin.
The cardinal, appointed to his position by Pope Benedict last month, said that Beijing would have to change its "prejudiced views" and "misconception" before the Vatican can consider severing ties with Taiwan.
As of this time, plans to reestablish relations between China and the Vatican have been ongoing since Pope John Paul’s death last year and the approach of the Beijing Olympics.