China hopes for better Vatican ties

By XU WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-28 05:11

Religious affairs official says dialogue can lessen divisions, but certain conditions must be met

China is willing to conduct constructive dialogue with the Vatican and hopes that the Vatican will take a more flexible and pragmatic attitude in such a dialogue, a top religious affairs official said on Tuesday, as the country's Catholic church representatives gathered in Beijing for a national assembly.

China's stance on improving ties with the Vatican has always been clear and consistent, and the country is willing to hold talks "with the Vatican based on relevant principles to narrow differences and expand common ground", Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said at the opening of the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives.

He did not define the principles, but the administration and the Foreign Ministry have reiterated that the Vatican has to cut "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and admit that the island is part of China. In addition, the Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs.

"We hope the Vatican will take practical actions to create favorable conditions for the improvement in ties," he said.

Wang made the remarks in the wake of a statement from the press office of the Holy See that calls for "positive signals" from the Chinese government.

Foreign media have reported recently that after several rounds of talks, Vatican delegates and Chinese officials have worked out a draft agreement on how to select and appoint new bishops in China.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a daily news briefing on Monday that China has always shown good faith in promoting the improvement of bilateral ties with the Vatican, and is willing to continue to work with the Vatican toward progress in the constructive dialogue.

In a sign of improved ties, China ordained four new bishops in November and December, and all of whom have gained papal approval.

The three-day assembly of Chinese Catholic representatives started on Tuesday as 365 representatives, including bishops, priests and lay Catholics, from across the country convened to select a new leadership for the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishop's Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

Wang said at the meeting that China's Catholic Church should handle its own issues independently and free of foreign control.

"Sticking to the principle of independence, autonomy and self-direction would fit into the national interest as well as the reality of the Catholic Church in China," he said.

Ma Yinglin, president of the Bishop's Conference of the Catholic Church in China, said on Tuesday that the Catholic Church in China plans to set up a charity to expand its social services in the next five years.

The church also plans to increase its overseas exchanges with churches and invite overseas theologians to teach in its seminaries, he said.

There are 65 bishops, about 3,100 priests and 5,800 nuns in the Catholic Church in China, and the country has more than 6 million Catholic followers, according to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

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