Tuesday, April 05, 2005

China, the Vatican, Taiwan, Bishop Zen - and me

All of the wires are picking up now that Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong is saying the Vatican may drop diplomatic ties with Taiwan in order to gain concessions with Beijing.

I hate to blow my own horn, but I reported this two years ago in the National Catholic Register. I did a lengthy interview with the bishop talking about Article 23 of the Hong Kong Constitution that would have restricted religious freedom, the pastoral difficulties he faces with only 250,000 Catholics in a city of 7 million, his rocky relationship with Chinese authorities and Taiwan. Here's the relevant section on Taiwan:

I’m not sure if you want to answer this question or not, but there have been some rumblings in the Vatican about bringing closer ties between the Vatican and Beijing and one of the thoughts is that Rome would have drop its recognition of Taiwan. Does that concern you?
You see it was peaceful for many years already. The Vatican already for several years said that there’s no problem to drop Taiwan. And the Chinese know that very well. So they know that this is not the problem.
Now, if you ask my personal opinion, I find it still to be a problem because that will be to abandon a friend unilaterally and it’s never happened before.
But Beijing understands and also the hierarchy in Taiwan understands that to give some more freedom to so many people, so many Catholics in mainland China, the Holy See may have to do such a thing. So they understand, I mean the bishops, they have accepted already in their hearts.
So Beijing must know that this is not the problem. So the problem is that the Vatican would accept also something in return. But the Beijing government is not ready for that. They are not willing to make any concessions. That is what we have seen from their internal documents – they are not going to grant anything to the Church. I think the Vatican knows that, so nothing is going on at this moment.

What would Rome want? Would it be basically authority over naming its own bishops?
Yes, the appointment of bishop, yes.
Even on that, the Vatican is surely ready for some compromise. But it seems that Beijing wants full surrender – that’s impossible. It’s very frustrating.
If anyone wants to see the full interview, let me know.

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