In a previous post, I noted that China once claimed the Vatican's selection of new Catholic saints was part of China's "internal affairs". (No, really, I'm serious.)
Now, China is once again demonstrating that it thinks the Holy See's diplomatic policies require its approval. The International Herald Tribune reports:
China wasted little time before warning the new pope, Benedict XVI, on Wednesday that the Vatican and China could establish formal relations only if the Vatican dissolved its diplomatic links with Taiwan and promised not to "interfere in China's internal affairs."That doesn't sound like a very good deal for the Vatican: Break off ties with Taiwan, where Catholicism is practiced freely by some 300,000 people, and defer to China, where only state-approved churches are permitted. Indeed, the Vatican recognizes Taiwan precisely because China's communist government expelled the Roman Catholic Church in 1951.
The statement signaled that China was unlikely to make any concessions soon that would open the way for formal ties between China and the Vatican.
"We are willing to improve relations with the Vatican on the basis of two principles," said the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang, in a statement congratulating Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on his election as pope. Qin said the Vatican must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and "acknowledge that the People's Republic of China is China's sole legitimate government." China regards Taiwan as a renegade province. Qin added that "the Vatican cannot interfere in China's internal affairs, including interference in the name of religious matters."
Japan Today reports on what this means for practicing Catholics:
China's Roman Catholics are divided into two churches the government-approved "patriotic" church which does not recognize the Vatican, and the underground church where adherents accept the pontiff as leader.I hope Benedict XVI shows communist regimes the same defiance that his predecessor did.
...Those that recognise the pope sometimes risk severe consequences, with Catholics routinely detained for weeks at a time for inviting friends to worship at home. Priests have been sentenced to years in jail.